Women's Golf: Youth on Knight’s roster encourages head coach
In her 20 seasons with the Rutgers women’s golf team, head coach Maura Ballard has encountered many scenarios throughout each season and learned to adjust to each situation.
The spring season is just another one of the challenges Ballard has accepted.
This time, not only does she have to become acquainted with five new Scarlet Knights, but five first-year collegiate golfers.
“It is exciting,” she said of watching the young players’ development. “Every one of our freshmen, all five of them, are very committed to the team, dedicated to their sport and conscientious in the classroom. I could not have picked a better group to be coaching.”
Ballard was eager to take on the task of nurturing the young players when the roster was complete. But she had the offseason to discover a new approach to coaching due to the drastic change in the team’s dynamic.
“This winter, I took on a new philosophy. It is called ‘Vision 54.’” Ballard said. “It encompasses all the areas that you need to be focusing on in order to be a good golfer. It is about the mental game, the emotions that you are feeling, the socializing of a game and also your spirit of the game. Then you add to that your physical and technical skills.”
Yet in addition to the five new players, Rutgers retained two familiar faces. Seniors Karen Cash and Brittany Weddell returned for their final seasons and are expected to have valuable roles.
“Both are very talented and very serious about their golf games,” Ballard said of Weddell and Cash. “They both played competitively at a very high level for many years. So they have a real comfort out there competing. They are very conscientious while they are preparing to compete in practice. They set a great example for the younger ones.”
The duo already has set the tone for the Knights on the young season. In the team’s debut tournament, Weddell finished tied for 13th with a 152, and Cash followed suit tied for 36th with a 157.
“I am just trying to set a good example for the five freshmen that are here,” Cash said before yesterday morning’s practice. “[I am] using my experience that I have had the past couple of years here and be the best leader that I can.”
Patience is the word that the veterans of the team have on their minds every time they take the course. The same goes for Ballard, who jokes with the two seniors about the interchanging coaching modes between them and the freshmen.
Cash admitted adapting does take time and effort to remain in tune mentally with the Knights.
“I am used everybody kind of knowing exactly what to do,” Cash said. “But they are definitely learning very well. I have seen a lot of improvement from not only this semester, but the past two or three months from transitioning from high school where they were, into college. They are getting it quicker.”
Ballard is taking the experience in stride and finds it rewarding. She is not only ecstatic of the potential of all of her golfers, but the fact that she gets coach the five newcomers for multiple years.
“I know that as time goes on, they are going to gain strength and be really good,” she said. “So if I am patient now, I know that what I have seen so far, how interested they are in learning and growing. I have no worries about how well they are going to be doing down the road.”