Geolat, Skaar lead the Bison
The North Dakota State University women’s golf team heads to Newton, Kan., this weekend to participate in the Summit League Championship tournament which will wrap up their 2021-22 campaign. The Bison will take on the 6,000-yard, par 72, Sand Creek Station golf course where they finished sixth in last year’s edition of the league’s championship tournament.
This year’s team will look to improve upon last year’s performance. The team’s lone senior, Lexi Geolat, feels really good heading into the weekend. “I’ve had probably the most consistent spring of play,” said Geolat. “And the good play of the team has pushed me to work harder and be even better this spring.”
A small change in her swing over the holiday break has made all the difference for Geolat. “One little swing change I made over Christmas break actually,” said Geolat. “Something super small and I focus on that every swing and it’s meant everything.”
Matt Johnson, in his 13th year as head coach of the women’s team, thinks Lexi has been one of the team’s top performers. “Lexi has probably been our most consistent player throughout the season and certainly the spring,” said Johnson. “Lexi has never been our low player for the season, but for this spring, she is our low player overall in terms of the best or lowest stroke average.”
Indeed, since the spring season started, Geolat has been very consistent shooting rounds between 74 and 79 the entire spring season, until she posted a final round 82 at the Oral Roberts Invitational on April 12. Including the 82, she is averaging 76.6 strokes per round since the spring season started back on Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, the hottest golfer for the women heading into this weekend’s league tournament has been sophomore Leah Skaar. Skaar, who will be playing in her first Summit League Tournament this weekend, is coming off of back-to-back Top 10 finishes. In the same ORU Invitational on April 11 & 12, the Gold Canyon, Ariz., native had rounds of 73, 76 and 76 for a three-round total of 225 (+9), good for a ninth-place finish. Two weeks prior to the ORU Invitational, Skaar shot rounds of 75, 70 and 76 for a total of 221 (+5), good for fifth place in the Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Invitational. Skaar averaged 74.3 strokes per round for her last two tournaments.
To win the league tournament, Johnson says the team will need those two players and something else that they have been close to all spring but has remained just out of the team’s grasp. “We need those two [Geolat and Skaar] to put up three good numbers. Not one, not two, but three good numbers,” said Johnson. “Then it’s going to take the rest of our line-up to come through. Again, they don’t have to break records, they don’t have to do anything they have never done, they just have to go out and play, at least, at the level they have been capable of playing. It’s something they’ve done probably seven or eight rounds this spring,” explained Johnson. “If we can do that, then we can be a factor at the tournament.”
Elaborating further, Johnson said it’s been a good spring but there have been some opportunities missed from a team perspective. “It’s been a good spring, but at the same time I feel like it has been a spring where we had some opportunities to do a little better than we did,” said Johnson. “It was a spring where we beat the teams you’d expect us to beat, we didn’t necessarily beat the teams we knew it would take a real strong effort to beat them.” The plan heading into the league tournament has been to change the thinking. “You know golf…every sport, is about doing things consistently,” said Johnson. “In golf, you need four good scores, you don’t need four amazing scores and we have had just enough days where we didn’t get those four good scores. So, the plan for this weekend is to fight, play hard, make good decisions, and see if we can’t get them to all play well on the same day.”
Skaar concurred with Coach Johnson. “I feel like we have had some good rounds and we have had some bad rounds,” said Skaar. “We haven’t really had a time where we all played good, or all played bad, so it hasn’t varied much. We don’t really work our way up the leaderboard or down it. We are saving it for the conference where we are all going to play well. We can all go pretty low, so if we can do it at the same time, I think we have a great chance.”
Meanwhile, Geolat, from Lake City, Minn., while looking forward to competing again at Sand Creek reflected on her years as a student-athlete at North Dakota State. “Personally, I love this school. I love the teachers. They are so accommodating to student-athletes. It’s just a really good place and I’ve been able to continue my education so effortlessly,” said Geolat. “One thing I have learned about myself is I am much more of a leader than I thought I was. Coming here in my first year and starting at the bottom, I didn’t think I would ever be looked to for advice or as a role model. But now in my fifth year, I see I am and actually made an impact.”
Geolat, Skaar and the rest of the Bison women will tee off Sunday morning at Sand Creek Station in their quest to bring a Summit League Championship home to NDSU.