Consistency of spring competition has Bison primed for tournament
Heading into the spring portion of his 14th Summit League season as head coach of the North Dakota State University women’s golf program, Matt Johnson was looking for some consistency in his team’s performances. As the Bison prepare to compete in the 2023 Summit League Championship Tournament at the par 71, 6,133-yard Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend, he believes his team has found exactly that over their spring schedule.
“We’ve definitely found a consistency,” Johnson said. “the one poor tournament we had this spring was on the tail end of spring break and there were some things that kind of played into that which we have since corrected.”
They have indeed. Beginning with their opening tournament of the spring, the Grand Canyon Invitational in Phoenix, the Bison earned a fifth-place finish in the 17-team field. Last week, the Bison finished as the runners-up at the Stampede at the Creek in Omaha, Neb., a tournament that featured a nine-team field. Sandwiched in between those tourneys, the women finished fourth out of 16 teams at the Pizza Hut Lady Thunderbird Invite in Utah and collected a sixth-place finish at the Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Intercollegiate in South Carolina. In the Stampede, NDSU’s Catherine Monty shot a season-low, three-round 220 to finish as the tournament runner-up. Johnson credits a lot of NDSU’s spring successes to junior Catherine Monty.
NDSU’s Catherine Monty’s consistent play has been one of the keys to the team’s improved play this spring. Monty, and her teammates, will compete in the Summit League Tournament this weekend.
Photo Courtesy | Zach Lucy
“One thing I have noticed is I have a more consistent swing pattern that I can rely on,” Monty explained, “I can step up to the ball confidently and know where it is going to go. Last week in Omaha, I struck my irons really well and I was able to hit a bunch of greens.”
“She has adjusted her approach to her practice routines and how she prepares to compete,” Johnson added.
In the fall, the Bison golfers were all over the map, both literally and figuratively, with their play. In the fall, the women won two tournaments (the NDSU Fall Invitational in Oxbow, N.D. and the Jackrabbit Invite in Brookings, S.D.), but had a 12th-place finish out of 18 teams in Utah and finished tenth in Oahu, Hawaii in a field featuring 13 teams.
“The fall showed what success we are capable of having while showing some of our inconsistencies,” Johnson said. “It was definitely one of our goals to eliminate those rounds where people were really struggling.”
Another member of the team that Johnson gives credit to is Madi Hicks. Hicks, the left-handed freshman from Victoria, Minn., comes into the Summit tourney with back-to-back Top Ten finishes and has been a model of consistency having shot 80, or worse, only once this spring. That 81 came in, amazingly enough, last week’s Stampede at the Creek. Hicks still finished in a tie for second after opening with 76-70.
“I’ve worked on my putting stroke. I have definitely had a more consistent putting stroke,” Hicks explained. “I think the biggest thing has been I’ve worked on my mindset more than my swing. It has definitely shown and definitely helped me big time.”
“I also think Maddie Herzog has been the biggest reason we’re succeeding,” Hicks said. “She has only played a couple of tournaments this spring, not a lot, but because she is a leader she shows us what hard work looks like and she has experience because she is a senior.”
“With Madi I think it has been getting comfortable and settling in with competing at the college level,” Johnson said.
Last week, NDSU golfers Elise Hoven (L) and Madi Hicks were named to the Summit League’s All-League Second Team. Both will compete in this weekend’s Summit League Tournament.
Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics
Others have recognized her improvement and consistency this season as well. On Friday, the freshman, along with teammate Elise Hoven, was named by the Summit League to its All-League Second Team. She is second on the team with a 75.9 scoring average and tied for the team lead in top-ten finishes with four.
Heading into this year’s league tournament, the Bison are a confident crew. Coach Johnson is excited about playing the course, Wilderness Ridge, even though none of the current NDSU players have competed on it.
“It has all the elements,” Johnson said. “None of the fairways are particularly narrow, there are some trees, a lot of bunkers and a little bit of water. It is pretty typical of your modern golf course. There are no ‘bad’ holes on it, which is what I like.”
“It’s a traditional modern golf course,” Monty claimed. “It’s got some good par threes.”
“I’m excited. Our team is super close, and we all believe in each other,” Hicks expressed. “I’ve never been to the conference championship, and I am looking forward to what that all entails. We’ve been practicing really hard, and I think we’re going to be good.”
The Bison tee off in round one at 11:40 a.m. on Sunday at Wilderness Ridge. They will be playing with pre-season league favorite Denver University and Oral Roberts University. You can follow along at: https://results.golfstat.com/