By Rod Engblom, The Daily Iowan
With the Iowa women’s golf team recruiting four freshmen earlier in the fall season, including one from Canada and one from Spain, it seems as if Iowa’s latest recruitment is paying off.
Two of the freshmen are performing exceptionally well. Elisa Suarez of Spain has the teams lowest average of 76.1 in 26 rounds, with her lowest score of the season at 70. Canadian Jessica Ip has an average of 78, with her lowest score of the season at 71.
The team has changed substantially in the past few years, as Iowa has pushed to recruit internationally in an attempt to pull from a broader range of talent.
“The first year I came here, I was the only one from outside of the Midwest,” said senior Shelby Phillips, who is from Gilbert, Arizona. “Last year, we got a girl from Spain and a girl from Canada, and they’re starting to reach out there and get some foreign players, which is great.”
The exceptional performances from Suarez and Ip may be credited to the ease of transition that the players have had when they first came to the United States.
“It’s been good because I’ve had friends who came to the Untied States, and I talked to them before, so I knew what I was going to go through,” Suarez said. “So I was mentally prepared, and all of my team has helped me make the transition much easier.”
Suarez never came for an official visit to the Iowa, but communicating with the coaches and looking through the UI’s websites helped her to decide that she wanted to go to Iowa City.
As far as playing, Ip had a little more difficult of a transition when it came to the physical aspect.
“I’ve never played 36 holes in a day before,” Ip said. “That was kind of a shock, but everything else has been great.”
Unlike Suarez, Ip visited Iowa before joining the team and liked the players on the team and facility, which ultimately persuaded her to join the Hawks.
The coaching staff also believes that Suarez’s and Ip’s transition into college has been smooth even though they both came from a foreign country.
“Elisa and Jessica have made the transition seamlessly,” head coach Megan Menzel said. “They’re trained from a young age, and they’ve both played on their national teams, and Elisa has spent some time playing at a boarding school in England, so a lot of it is probably more familiar to them coming to college, being in a dorm, and being with people you don’t know even more so sometimes than the players from the United States.”
The success of the freshman class can also be attributed to assistant coach Todd Selders. He performs all of the team’s recruiting and travels around the country and in foreign countries to try to sign the best talent.
Selders has his own template when he recruits a player.
“We have a checklist when we recruit a player,” he said. “First, we look at their scores, academics, and most importantly, how they treat their parents. If we see a player treating their parents poorly and disrespectfully, we won’t take that player, because that’s a sign that the player won’t respect the coaches, either.”
This strategy helps the team pick players who are level-headed, which is a key attribute for a golfer’s mental game in order to be successful.
It seems that is paying off. The coaching staff is excited about the remainder of season because there have been many improvements in the team’s scoring.
“We’re really excited,” Menzel said. “We feel that things are kind of clicking right now, and we’ve seen great improvement this spring so far. This is really good for us to see these scores dropping, because we’re in a northern climate. They’ve worked extremely hard in this off-season and have bought into what we’ve asked them to do, and it’s paying off.”