Women's Golf Kicks Off Spring Season in New Orleans

Alison Hovatter

Feb. 21, 2014

TWITTER: @OleMissWGolf

AllState Sugar Bowl Classic Tournament Central     Live Scoring

The Ole Miss women’s golf team will hit the links for the first time this spring on Sunday (Feb. 23) when they travel to the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic hosted by Tulane. The Rebels have been working hard in the offseason and have their sights set on the 2014 NCAA Championship in Tulsa, Okla.

After a fall season that didn’t see the Rebels play their best golf for a myriad of reasons, the women’s golf team took a different approach to their offseason training and did some of the best off season work head coach Michele Drinkard has seen in her seven years.

“I felt like we kind of lost our identity in the fall,” said Drinkard.  “We played a little bit timid – we had some injuries – and we didn’t get quite the production we needed out of our score. We became timid with our game in trying to be too careful. We took some additional time to stay in season because we had such good weather in the fall and really started focusing on ‘why do we play’ and trying to find out with each individual how to get the fun back in the game.  Golf as a game is fun, but it can also get terribly distracting and that’s what happened to us in the fall and we lost confidence. We made that the focus and have carried it over into the winter and spring. The team playing right now has more confidence then I have ever seen out of any of my teams in my seven years here. ”

The Ole Miss team will get its first chance to see its hard work in the offseason on the course this weekend. The Rebels will head to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl Classic, a tournament they will be participating in for the second time in the last four years. The field is always competitive and this year includes three of the nation's top five teams and nine squads rank among the Top-25 programs in the country - a total of 13 of the 17 teams rate among the Top-50 teams in the country.   

“As much as the weather has been a deterrent for us, it actually is the best thing that has ever happened,” said Drinkard. “We purchased a new Trackman so that the women’s team could have their own and we have almost worn it out. We needed to trust and find out what our ‘go to’ wedge yardages are and we needed to trust how far our ball is flying.  Additionally, thanks to the Herrington family  for our indoor/outdoor facility because now we have turned the upstairs of our Whitten Golf House into a fantastic putting room so associate head coach Janell Howland has been doing drills and maintenance of their strokes this off season.”

Howland has also integrated Aim Point into the Ole Miss women’s golf team’s repertoire and the results have been outstanding.

“I’ve been working with the team on Aim Point,” said Howland.” There are two different Aim Points, mid-point read and express read. So right now we have seven of seven players doing some form or fashion of Aim Point. Our putting statistics have dramatically changed as a result of using it. I’m excited about how hard they have been working on it and they seem to like it. They are very confident in their putting now and I’m excited to see how that transfers into the spring season.

“When you get confident in your putting, you’re able to visualize your putt going in and they are able to visualize a lot more,” said Drinkard. “Our psychologist, Josie Nicolson, has been working with our team once a week and its really increasing our confidence level. We’ve been able to get everything out on the table and we’re now feeding off of each other and honestly it’s been the best winter we’ve ever had.”

This weekend Abby Newton, Alison Hovatter, Stani Schiavone, Maria Toennessen and Taelor Rubin will make the trip to New Orleans. These five played together in three tournaments in the fall, and have been steadily improving throughout the off season.

“Abby and Alison have been the most consistent that we’ve had from the fall.” Both of them have improved and focused in on some areas that they needed to improve, and from the minute we left Wilmington until now, they have made great strides in those areas. I look for them to pick up where they left off and be ahead of the curve.”

Hovatter played some of her best golf this fall. Playing in each of Ole Miss’ four tournament’s, the redshirt sophomore set career-bests for lowest round, tournament score and best finish at the UNC Tar Heel Invitational (69-75-72--216) and finished tied for 11th place. The Alabama native ended the fall leading the Rebels with a 75.09 stroke average.

“Stani was fighting some injuries and she is really healthy right now. I can see some hunger back in her eyes now. I’m excited for her to get out there and start playing and competing.”

Maria Toennessen is Ole Miss’ lone freshman and she played in three of Ole Miss’ fall tournaments. She had her best outing at the Mercedes Benz Championship, where she shot a career low round of 73.   

“Maria, her upside is incredible. It takes a semester; very few freshmen can tee it up right away and feel acclimated and comfortable with everything that goes into being a student athlete. She is now a mature player. She’s upgraded her equipment so she has some more stability there and I’ve never seen her walk taller.  It will be fun to watch her play.”

“Taelor, I believe is one of our best ball strikers on the team. She can get hot and when she’s hot she can make a lot of birdies. She lost the fun out of it a little bit and she’s found that fun again. This is the best preparation I’ve seen her have for a competition. When she loses she is not happy and she’s ready to fight to be the best.”

Not only will the Rebels get to experience a great, although windy, course at the English Turn Country Club, they will get to take in a little bit of Mardi Gras as well. The team will be staying near historic Bourbon Street and will be able to take in some of the parades before hitting the links.

Following the AllState Sugar Bowl Classic, Ole Miss will travel to the Notre Dame Clover Cup (March 14-16) in Mesa, Ariz., and the  Anuenue Spring Break Classic (March 24-26) in Maui, Hawaii before returning to host the 2014 Rebel Intercollegiate, April 4-6 at the Oxford Golf Course.

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