Ring Chasers: Saluki women’s golf in search of first conference title since 2007

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

After a fall season and their first under head coach Danielle Kaufman, Southern women’s golf team is looking to put the Missouri Valley Conference on notice.

The Salukis open up their season at the Battle at Boulder Creek Invitational in Las Vegas next month and for sophomore Emilyee McGiles the tournament play is something to look towards.

“Its [important] to get back in the swing of everything and see how we’re working as a team,” McGiles said. “We all worked pretty hard in the offseason so it’ll be fun to get back into competition.”

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As for junior Erica Kerr she looks forward to coming home on March 24th and 25th and avenging the team’s loss in the Saluki Invite last year.

“Coming off of a loss from last year, I think this year is redemption,” Kerr said. “[We want] to bring back the trophy and show the fans back home we’re here to win.”

Southern finished fourth of nine during the MVC Fall Preview in October. The Salukis finished behind Illinois State, Bradley and Missouri State.

“We had teams beat us that we thought would never really pull out in front of us,” Kerr said. “Hopefully [we] make it to the top this season.”

McGiles said she feels like the October tournament wasn’t the team’s best and feels like they can do better.

“I can say for myself, I did not play my best golf and I know a lot of us didn’t,” McGiles said. “Seeing how close we were to being at that top spot pushes us even harder.”

Kaufman said the team is not at the height of what they can and will be this season.

“We haven’t even peaked yet as a team – being in fourth place [isn’t] bad,” Kaufman said. “We were just barely behind Illinois State, I think we have a run for it.”

The mentality of the team is far beyond just fourth place in the Valley, for a team seeking it’s first conference title since 2007.

“We all want it really bad,” McGiles said. “Our group chat name is Ring Chasers – we all want to leave with a ring so we’re going to get it done one way or another.”

Both the men and women’s golf programs are looking to claim the MVC title this season and the opportunity for both programs to bring a trophy home would be substantial for Saluki Golf.

“I think that would be huge, we’re trying to make these programs better and make more people interested,” Kerr said. “Bringing home the trophy with both teams would bring a big crowd.”

Kaufman played golf at SIU from 2007-2008 but was unable to bring the title home as a player. She said the chance to bring a trophy to Southern would be huge.

“Since I was here, I never did get that ring so that would be huge,” Kaufman said. “I would love that more than anything – that’s my goal.”

The Salukis finished eighth in the Missouri State Invite during the Fall season, but by the last tournament in October they finished second.

“I think [we] just grew as a team, they needed to adjust to me and my philosophy and what I believe in,” Kaufman said.

McGiles said she recognized team chemistry as a big part of what led to their success at the end of the fall season, as the team got closer the results got better.

“Bonding was a big part of it,” McGiles said. “Working together as a team – it just started to click at the end.”

Looking at the conference field, McGiles, Kerr and Kaufman all concurred the Missouri State Bears are their biggest competitor in the Salukis chase for a ring.

“Like coach said, we haven’t peaked yet and we’re not peaking at the same time,” Kerr said. “Once conference comes around and we peak at the right time, I think we actually can pull it off.”

As far as the Saluki Invite on March 24th and 25th, the women said they enjoy the opportunity to get to play on their home course in front of Southern fans.

“We only get one home tournament,” McGiles said. “We have a lot of other friends that we go to all their games [and] to have them come out and support us and all of our fans from the community – it’s awesome.”

Kaufman said the Saluki Invite this year will be a great opportunity for the Southern community to come out and support women’s golf.

“I think the Salukis this year are going to be bigger and better,” Kaufman said. “We are reaching out to the community to get more involved [and] that’s very important to me.”

The Southern women’s golf team will begin their quest for the ring in Las Vegas on February 11th and 12th.

Sports editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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