ANGOLA, Ind. — In college golf, a close friend can transform into an enemy in a few strokes.
Occasionally, a pair of teammates can carry their school in the team standings while simultaneously battling against one another for an individual tournament title. After the first round of the national championship, Williams sophomore Georgiana Salant and junior Victoria Student both found themselves in the top 10 — Salant held the lead and Student was a mere four strokes behind her teammate. As they fought wind gusts topping 20 miles-per-hour through Wednesday’s second round, neither worried about their teammate’s score.
Each was focused on the team prize.
|Team Leaderboard | Individual|
|Day 2 Pairings|
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Williams slipped from first to fourth in the team standings after two days of competition, 10 shots back of the pace set by Methodist. Salant finished her round tied for second place — only two shots off the lead — while Student fell to a tie for 16th.
“Everyone on the team is battling for each other,” Student said. “We’re not out there for the individual title, just the team.”
That team-first mentality trickles down from their unfailingly positive head coach Erika DeSanty, who spent her Wednesday afternoon bounding up hills, green water bottle in hand, offering pats on the back and cheers of encouragement to her players. DeSanty is adamant that her golfers not worry about individual accolades. The only leaderboard that matters, she said, is the one with the name “Williams” on it, not Student or Salant. Should one of her players win the individual title, she’d be elated, but she works to ensure that none of them crave such success.
“If we have two players leading the tournament, all our players are going to be thrilled for both of them,” DeSanty said. “They’re not competing against each other by any means.”
That’s not to say that the Williams players don’t find time to placate their competitive urges elsewhere. In practice, they often engage in skills competitions. They find who can get closest to the pin, who can get up and down from the toughest spot and who can drain the longest putt.
“I think that’s great,” Salant said. “It keeps everybody on edge a little bit and makes them play that much better.”
While competition in practice can help players push each other to succeed, it’s a feeling of unity that motivates Williams players in tournaments. Rather than focusing on beating their teammates, they worry about not letting them down.
“It gives me something more to think about when I’m out there,” Salant said. “I’m not just playing for myself. I’m playing for other people. It makes me focus on every shot more. Every shot matters because it’s not only affecting me, but it’s affecting the other players.”
Salant and Student have grown used to winning team championships while battling for an individual title. Williams won six team events this year and at least two Williams players routinely pushed their way into the top 10 in the individual competition.
While the Williams’s approach to tournaments is common among the Division III participants, DeSanty maintains it’s not universal. Other programs use competition — in practice and tournaments — to drive each other to succeed. DeSanty admits the approach could yield positive results, but feels the potential tension it creates could harm a team.
There is never such tension among Williams players, DeSanty said. Though the individual title is a mere two strokes from Salant’s grasp after two rounds and a teammate is breathing down her neck, she pays it no attention.
“[The individual championship] would come as a result of me playing well for this team,” Salant said. “It’d just be an extra bonus.”