HARTSVILLE, S.C. –With a taste of success under its belt – and the program's first-ever trophy, the Coker women's golf team is eager to add to its successes.
"We set some team records and showed significant team development and growth in the fall," head coach Tommy Baker said. "I think it's safe to say they want a bigger trophy now."
The women's golf team heads into year three of the program in 2013. Baker, who has been the head coach since its inception, believes his team is ready to get over the hump.
"We've competed well in several tournaments," he said. "I think with each year we have improved, which is what I hoped to see. As a team, we're 40 shots better than we were when the program started. The women have worked hard to improve their games, and it's starting to show."
During the fall season, Coker earned that second-place finish at the Montreat Invitational in North Carolina. It is the best tournament finish in program history. Heading into the spring, the Cobras are picked to finish sixth in Conference Carolinas.
Reaching the next step for the women's team will depend on two things – course management and short game. Baker, who is a certified short-game instructor, has the women constantly working on chipping and putting during practice. Assistant coach Jim Lemke has played a key role for the management side, as he helps them take on the mental side of golf.
"We just need to be more consistent in those areas, and it comes through repetition," Baker said. "Part of our learning curve is how to adapt to the conditions you're given – type of course, the weather or a bad shot."
The 2013 women's golf roster begins with Krista Thorpe, a junior who has been with the program since its inception. She is joined by sophomores Sara Allen, Jessi McKenzie and Mallory Thompkins, and newcomer Taylor Demby, a freshman.
These five will fill Baker's lineup card each time out, and he expects Thorpe and Thompkins to fulfill leadership roles.
"Those are the two I'm looking for to help us in that category," he said. "Krista has been here since day one, and has bought in to what we're doing. She is the one that leads by example. Mallory is our vocal leader – she keeps everyone in line and just does things the right way. They provide a good balance for our team."
Strong leadership on and off the course has been paired with strong chemistry on the team. Each has played a major role, Baker says, in the program's improvement over the past two-and-a-half-years.
As for expectations, if a strong fall is any indication, the season could break new barriers for the women.
"The possibilities are endless," Baker said. "If we play as we're capable of playing, have course management and discipline the way we've been working in the fall, I expect we will compete for the conference title."
The women have the confidence of their coach. If they keep on the path they're going, they just might bring home that coveted hardware in April.
The women's golf team opens its season Feb. 2 at the Tusculum Kiawah Invitational in Kiawah Island, S.C.