New-Look Rebels Relying on Upperclassman Leadership
OXFORD, Miss. – There’s a popular video clip from BBC’s Life Story featuring the early-life plight of the Barnacle gosling. Just days after their birth, the tiny birds, still unable to fly, must leap hundreds of feet and tumble down a cliff to their awaiting parents below—some survive, some don’t.
While the early stages of their new lives as Ole Miss Rebels aren’t quite as intense, the four newcomers to the women’s golf team have certainly shared their moments of bewilderment as they’re settling into life as a student-athlete. Fortunately, they have some help from their seasoned teammates who have made the leap themselves.
“Our upperclassmen have really stepped up and are taking them under their wing, helping them figure their way though college and where their classes are,” said head coach Kory Henkes. “It’s pretty exciting. The vibe has been a lot of fun, and they’ve been pushing each other. It’s a whole new culture going on.”
The 2017-18 roster is nearly an even split, featuring five returners and four new hatchlings. The group had its first workout session together Wednesday morning, and the team’s attitude has already impressed strength and conditioning coach Matt Turner.
“Coach Turner said that the enthusiasm with the team is great. You can tell they want to be here. They’re pushing each other. It has been good so far,” Henkes said.
Henkes and assistant coach Drew Belt are relying on their five returning players to continue helping the four newbies find their way in Oxford. Seniors Katy Harris and Laura Hoskin, juniors Martina Flori and Kie Purdom and sophomore Pi-Lillebi Hermansson are already embracing their roles as the leaders on and off the course.
In addition to their leadership, they also boast strong resumes, including a combined 54 tournament appearances over the last two seasons. Harris has three wins on her collegiate resume, including last year’s thrilling win at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. Flori nearly joined the medalist club last year, finishing tied for second at the Hawkeye El Tigre Invitational in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—one of her two top-10 finishes on the season.
The newcomers have already found success on the course as well. In the offseason, Henkes added an NAIA All-American in transfer Diane Lim. She also recruited the top players out of Mississippi and Louisiana in Conner Beth Ball and Julia Johnson. And all three freshmen had strong summers, highlighted by Macy Holliday qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and Ball advancing to match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
Simply put, all nine players on the roster can play.
“It could be a different lineup every week this year,” Henkes said. “We have a lot of depth, and every single person is capable of playing week in and week out. It’s going to be interesting to see who steps up and really fights for their spots.”
The team is staging a six-round qualifying tournament to hammer out which Rebels will claim one of the five coveted travel spots for the first event of the season, The Invitational at The Ocean Course on Sept. 4-5. The internal competition will be tough as ever, but simply having nine, as opposed to the seven on last year’s roster, will help the team grow.
“It’s good because then you have four at home, three if we take an individual. So they’ve got more people to practice with while they’re at home,” Henkes said. “It does make a difference, and like I said, it could be a different lineup every week. So we hope that’s a benefit and that they continue to push each other.”
If they’re facing adversity miles away from home at a tournament, or if they’re lining up putts on the Ole Miss Golf Course practice green hoping to make the next lineup, Henkes’ group will work through it together. The 2017-18 team has been on campus for less than a week, but they're well on their way to building a bond as Rebels.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Henkes said. “Not only does it bring new golf talent, it brings new personalities to the team. It brings more players with a lot of work ethic, energy and enthusiasm, who are hungry to get better and be here at Ole Miss.”
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