SIU women’s golf tees off 2005 season in Arizona

By Gus Bode

Don’t feel sorry for the SIU women’s golf team. It would be a waste of time.

They’re at practice dancing due to happiness. Why?

Not only do they have the reigning Missouri Valley Conference coach and individual golfer of the year, they also get an early end to this school week. Later today they’ll start their first tournament of the year, the East/West Rio Verde Invitational, in Scottsdale, Ariz.


Talented team leaders, early starts to the weekend and a chance to see what winter should really be like are three reasons why sophomore Kelly Gerlach, the defending golfer of the year, is walking around singing Trillville’s “Some Cut.”

“It’s snowing outside in Carbondale,” Gerlach said Monday. “What’s there not to be in a good mood about?”

No, don’t feel sorry. Don’t be envious, either. Competing in exotic locales, or just competing at all, is due to the hard work exemplified by Gerlach and coach Diane Daugherty, who’s in her 19th year as head coach. The team has practiced continuously throughout February, determined to get back in shape after a four-month break.

“They all played a lot in the fall, and that’s good experience for them,” Daugherty said. “With our senior, I know she wants to go out with a conference ring. Our last conference championship was in 2000, so this is the first team that I’ve had in a long time that hasn’t had somebody on it with a ring. Everybody in the department is getting rings:football, basketball, women’s track. So they’re very hungry for a good year.”

These sessions have been marked by hard work and early work. At Monday’s practice, the squad showed up half an hour early to tee off.

“I’ve always tried to lead by example,” Gerlach said. “If they see me out here at 1:30, 2:00, then hopefully they’ll come out and work hard. Those are the best practices; if you’re there before and after practice, then you’ll only get better.”

In Arizona, SIU will be met by a number of fellow Midwestern schools, including MVC foe Bradley and Big Ten schools Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. For the young Salukis, this 54-hole tournament could go a long way in determining how good they can be in regards to the Valley, and even the entire Midwest.


“It’s very good competition right off the bat,” Daugherty said. “We’re not in a sport though where we can guard against competition. We play the golf course. Our goal has always been 305 or better. If we shoot 305 as a team, then I’ll put us up against the competition there.”

And while the Salukis are youth-driven, Daugherty said she feels as good about this team as any in her long tenure. In the fall season, SIU placed in the top seven in three of four tournaments. Fellow sophomores Samantha Sutzer and Josie Lowder have made an impact by averaging in the 70s with their round scores, not far behind Gerlach.

Along with those three, senior Stefanie Pate, freshman Christine Zoerlien and sophomore Natalie Parker round out the team’s top six golfers.

“In my opinion, we’ve got more talent than anybody in the conference; we’ve just got to bring it to the golf course,” Gerlach said.

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]