Samson’s Scorecard: Par 3: Bobcat trio makes noise at Sacred Heart Spring Invite despite competing individually

Brendan Samson, Podcast Producer

During the practice round before Day 1 of the Sacred Heart Spring Invite, senior Darby Lillibridge said her biggest goal was to work on her putting during the tournament. One day later, she posted a score of four over par, etching her name into the second spot on the leaderboard for the tournament.

Last year at the same tournament, Quinnipiac rolled out its usual five starters. They combined for a score of 41 over par and a sixth-place finish out of 12 teams.

Among the players competing in 2021 were Kaylee Sakoda, Leeyen Peralta, Elena Ybarra, Mia Grzywinski and Elena Lopez. Lillibridge, Emily Luu and Amanda Tully also competed as individuals.

Fast forward to April 11-12 of this year, and Lillibridge and some other familiar faces are competing in a much different way.

While head coach John O’Connor, Sakoda, Peralta and Lopez joined three other golfers on a trip to Maryland to compete in the Georgetown Invitational this past weekend, Lillibridge, Luu and Grzywinski stayed and competed as individuals in the tournament.

Lillibridge was not the only player flexing her muscles at the tournament. Grzywinski shot five over par and was tied for third place and Luu shot eight over par, tied for 10th place.

The golfers competing individually means their scores are not combined, and they do not factor into the team por- tion of the tournament. For Grzywinski, this gives her a different mindset when she’s competing.

“I’m just still trying to play my own game and shoot the best score that I can,” Grzywinski said. “But if anything, I think that it kind of takes a little bit of pressure off because I know I’m just playing for me, it’s not for anybody else.”

This sentiment was echoed in the goals the Bobcats set for the match, wanting to work on their own games while also shooting their best.

Mia Grzywinski (above) and Darby Lillibridge finished in the top five of the Sacred Heart Spring Invite. (Peyton McKenzie)

The last time this column ran, there were four main points of improvement that the team needed to address. First was on-course experience, weather permitting. The second, third and fourth areas were putting, putting and putting.

This still rings true five weeks later. The team has rarely been able to practice outside, and Lillibridge’s goal of improved putting was reiterated by assistant coach Julia Kemmling during the practice round.

“Coach O’Connor and I feel like that’s a way that you can pick up strokes on your competitors if you’re better at your short game,” Kemmling said. “We really try to focus on having the girls practice their short game, their putting in the offseason and before each of their rounds at tournaments like this. We have them spend a lot of time on the greens to get to know that particular course’s speed of the greens, if they’re aerated, things like that to get used to.”

These methods were in use during Sunday’s practice round with the wind gusting and rain drizzling. The team focused on taking multiple putts and chips at each hole, tracking the green’s undulations and speeds in their StrackaLine books.

Lillibridge, Grzywinski and Luu have all played the course at least once, even upward of 10 times if you’re Grzywinski, who played at the course during her junior golfing days. This comfort and experience at the course allows her to go into depth when jotting down notes about the track.

“A big thing for me is I’ll kind of put a star at places that I want to aim, or I want to get the ball to,” Grzywinski said. “So, for example, if I really want to be on the right side of the fairway, because it gives you a better angle, I’m going to put a star there. Also, just looking at the green maps is helpful because we get pin sheets before the tournament, so we know where the pins are going to be each day, so marking those on the green maps is super helpful.”

While the green maps help the players prepare for the rounds, the Great River course posed a problem that the books could not fix. The greens had been recently aerated, making them abnormally slow. This led to multiple three-putts for the team, dropping strokes they could have gained.

Both Grzywinski and Lillibridge finished the tournament in the top five, with Grzywinski finishing nine over par and Lillibridge finishing 12 over par. Having already competed in tournaments earlier this season, their strong scores at SHU may put them in the lineup that competes for the MAAC in two weeks.