The Butler women’s golf team won the Redbird Fall Invitational on Sept. 12, 2022. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.
CALEB DENORME | SPORTS REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler women’s golf team is preparing to head off to the Big East Tournament next week in South Carolina, in what will be a big test of growth for a young team. The 2022-23 team features four first-years, four sophomores and a lone junior, Alaina Bowie.
Bowie has been with the program since her first year, when the 2020-2021 golf season was limited to only the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, she has taken up a leadership role within the squad, due to her being the elder statesman despite only being a junior.
“The hardest part for me is I felt like I had to fill some pretty big shoes … but the sophomores do a very good job of helping me out,” Bowie said. “I think that has really helped take the pressure off me and make it more of a family… I’m more of a mom to these kids.”
Last weekend, the Dawgs placed third in the Falcon Invitational hosted at Bowling Green, with a starting five golfers that included three first-years, Kelli Scheck, Cybil Stillson and Lily Celentano. The team was rounded out by sophomore Katie Steinman and team captain Bowie, but the junior said that there is a sense of mutual growth among the golfers.
“I think as any parent knows, you can learn so much from your kids, and these girls teach me so much,” Bowie said. “I think as much as I get to be an influence on them, they’re an influence on me and helped me grow as a person. So I think it’s a two-way street for sure.”
One of these younger influences is first-year golfer Kelli Scheck. Scheck came to Butler from Lake Oconee Academy in Georgia after being a part of three state championship golf teams and winning individually as well. The Georgia native played down the jump from high school golf to college, but said that the mental game is emphasized more in college.
“My mental game has definitely changed because in college we do 36-18,” Scheck said. “You just need to keep your head in the game for all 36 holes, all eight hours, it’s just mentally [challenging] for those 36 holes.”
Scheck tied a Butler record for the lowest score in a single round, shooting 67 in the second round of the FGCU Invitational in March. Her performance and Bowie’s consistent rounds of shooting 72 and 73 spurred the Dawgs to a tenth-place finish.
Going into the Big East Tournament, Scheck said that despite being a younger team, the Bulldogs still have aspirations of a conference title.
“I know what I need to shoot, and what’s nice is that we have an extra week to polish up some things before we head to conference,” Scheck said. “Expectations are definitely high for the team because we’re a good group and everybody has the ability to go low.”
The ability for everyone to go low at the same time has been a struggle for Butler this year, with the team sometimes struggling from inconsistent play at different times. The Dawgs started out hot in the fall, winning two of their first four events. Since then, the highest the team has placed is third. Head coach Christie Cates, who graduated from Butler in 2016, said that even with the inconsistency, this team has potential.
“We’re starting to hit our stride a little bit here,” Cates said. “Overall the kids work hard and want to do well, and it’s great to see their hard work pay off.”
Cates was named the head coach of the Bulldogs in 2019, but the roster has changed a lot from last season when Butler had four senior/graduate students on their roster. Despite the lack of experience, she insisted that this young team is exactly where she wants the program to be.
“The [first-years] kind of come out swinging which is great,” Cates said. “A lot of them work really hard and have gotten a lot better throughout the season, which is really promising.”
Promising is the key word to describe this Bulldogs squad. With no seniors, all the golfers should return barring any transfers, so the program will only grow stronger with time. Athletes need time to grow, but Bowie thinks that there is a certain skill that can make this team dangerous down the road.
“Our biggest growth will come in the clutch moments of these tournaments when the girls know they have to perform,” Bowie said. “I think it’s really hard to teach that in practice and even in the fall because you don’t feel the same pressure you felt in the Big East.”
Bowie played in the Big East Tournament last year, finishing 21st with a score of +18 over 54 holes. Butler finished fifth out of six teams competing, but that experience was extremely valuable for Bowie going forward into the next season.
“I knew there was a lot of pressure,” Bowie said. “But I didn’t really feel it until I was in the moment, until I was there, until you’re competing for your last tournament of the season. I mean, that’s why we work so hard all year.”
As the Dawgs prepare for the upcoming Big East Tournament, Coach Cates has a message for her team that no matter how young they may be, they can contend for the title now.
“You might think ‘oh, we are a year or two away’ potentially, but I don’t feel that way,” Cates said. “We’ve proven this entire year that we have what it takes, it’s just getting it all going on the same day.”
The Bulldogs will travel down to Hardeeville, South Carolina for the Big East Championships, taking place from April 17-19.