On a Thursday afternoon in late September, Anna Bourland could be soaking up the last few rays of summer sun or enjoying the last week of Western Washington University's summer break. Instead, she is already focused on golf, putting in some individual practice before the WWU women's golf season kicks off.
"I just finished driving some balls at the range," Bourland said with nonchalance in a phone interview. "I'm about to go do a little bit of work on my short game now."
The dedication Bourland shows, and her consistency in competition, is part of the reason WWU coach Bo Stephan has selected her team captain.
"I think honestly she is the unquestioned leader of the team," Stephan said in a phone interview. "I know I can look to her for all the things you need a responsible leader for."
Western Washington University's women's golf team has won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference the past two years and had the GNAC Player of the Year. Those accomplishments might be considered a success for most teams in the nation, but Stephan has his team wanting more.
After failing to make it to the NCAA Division II West Regional the past two season, the Vikings are focused on getting back to the top of the West Region and being invited to the National Championship tournament.
"Their expectations are high on their own," Stephan said. "What we need is some momentum at the right time."
Momentum was a problem last season for freshman Kristen Hansen.
"The commitment and time (were tough to balance)," Hansen, now a sophomore, said in a phone interview. "You want to do well in both golf and school. It was especially hard to come back from not playing during the winter (for the spring season)."
Despite her struggles later in the season, Hansen had a strong fall last year and was named GNAC Freshman of the Year thanks to her 80.8 average.
Bourland had two top-10 finishes and an 81.0 average last season. Stephan praised Bourland's consistency when other leaders on the team were underperforming.
"She's a quiet leader, but extremely focused," he said. "She carried us for awhile last year when no one else was playing as well."
Also returning for the Vikings are senior Katya Case and sophomore Emily Koryto. WWU lost two key pieces from last season's squad - Kara Zitzman and GNAC POY Claire Rachor.
To fill the void of losing two top golfers, Stephan recruited Bellingham High School graduates Brooke Branigan and Audrey Orem. The freshman duo has already impressed their team with their hard work ethic.
"We miss the girls from last year, but (the freshmen) are strong players," Bourland said in a phone interview. "It's a smooth transition. They understand the game and are competitive."
The Vikings will look for more consistency as a team this season than it had last year. The team had a strong fall last season but stumbled a bit down the stretch in the spring, Stephan said. As individuals, each golfer knows what they have to do for the team to succeed.
"My goals are to be able to shoot consistently low and grind out good rounds even when I'm not playing my best," Hansen said.
WWU hosts its home invitational at 9 a.m. Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 7-8, at Bellingham Golf and Country Club.
Reach Alex Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2285.
Date Tournament Site
Sept. 23-24 Western New Mexico University Invitational Coldwater Golf Course, Phoenix, Ariz.
Oct. 4-5 Saint Martin's University Invitational Olympia Golf and Country Club, Olympia, Wash.
Oct. 7-8 Western Washington University Invitational Bellingham Golf and Country Club, Bellingham
Oct. 21-22 Sonoma State University Invitational Rohnert Park, Calif.
Golfer Yr. Hometown
Anna Bourland Jr. Bainbridge
Brooke Branigan Fr. Bellingham
Katya Case Sr. Enumclaw
Kristen Hansen So. Spokane
Emily Koryto So. East Lansing
Audrey Orem Fr. Bellingham