BRADENTON, Fla. -- It’s not Day 5 of the Saharan Expedition -- Day 6 if you count last Thursday’s practice round -- but the 2015 NCAA Division I Golf Championships has that last-woman-standing feel.
In a good way, say some competitors and coaches from Monday’s quarterfinal round of match play. After all, champions should be tough.
“I think right now we’re just thinking about playing our games and keeping the ball in front of us,” said Baylor head coach Jay Goble, whose Bears defeated Tennessee in one Monday morning quarterfinal. “The great thing about this team is that they’re not stressed. They’re ready to play golf. They’re excited about match play.”
This year’s new championship format, which introduces two days of match play following four days of stroke play, means the eventual winner and runner-up will play six consecutive days and a potential maximum of 126 holes in steamy South Florida, on a difficult Concession Golf Club course that has punctured seemingly low scores and taunted the field.
“It’s more about having a set goal,” said Baylor freshman Giovana Maymon, whose match-play victory against Emmie Pietila clinched the Bears’ 3-2 quarterfinal triumph. “Not just about golf, it’s also about hydrating each hole. Like drinking three sips each hole and you’ll be good, I think, hydrating and eating something. Three holes, eat something.”
“If you just focus on how tired you are and how physically demanding the game and the tournament are, then you’re not going to be as mentally prepared to hit a shot the best you can,” said Duke junior Celine Boutier, who clinched the defending-champion Blue Devils’ quarterfinal victory on Monday with an individual win against Texas Tech’s Kimmy Hill. “I think the best way is to just stay in the match and the game and not think about anything else.”
Addressing heat and fatigue has been key for the entire, original 24-team field, but especially Monday’s eight quarterfinalists, who continued the trek toward that championship trophy. The four winners of Monday’s morning quarterfinals squared off for two afternoon semifinal matches -- Duke versus Baylor and Stanford versus Southern California -- meaning 36 holes in one day. The two winning finalists will decide the NCAA championship in Wednesday’s championship round.
There’s no avoiding long days on the golf course -- or weather delays and rounds that must be finished the following mornings -- but lots of sleep, ice baths and snacking have made the difference for all squads.
“And you can’t just drink water,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks said. “You’ve got to get other stuff in there. You’ve got to snack because your body’s trying to cool itself, so that’s burning calories, but you don’t necessarily want to eat because you’re hot. So sometimes you have to snack when you don’t want to snack.”
Brooks and his staff solved the eat-anyway dilemma with a shopping trip.
"We went to the grocery store and got some bars that they like, so they’re a little more interested in eating them,” he said. “If you have a bar in your bag that you don’t really like and you’re not hungry, it’s a lot worse.”
Boutier said she and her teammates have kept an eye on sophomore Sandy Choi, who Boutier said experienced a dehydration issue earlier this season. They’ve also learned from Choi’s prevention techniques.
“Every night she’s doing ice baths and then yesterday most of the team did it,” Boutier said of the Blue Devils’ Monday night reaction to making the eight-team cut to match play earlier that day. “So it’s been helping with recovery. We’re trying to just save energy in everything we do. And the coaches do a great job in helping us do that.”
Goble brought a member of Baylor’s strength and conditioning staff to oversee his players’ icing and recovery regimen.
“Do some things to help with some of the fatigue and swelling of a long, hot week out here,” Goble said. “I think that’s helped us out a lot. It’s hard to get rest. We’ve had rain delays. We played 25 holes one day. So it’s been an up and down battle all week.”
The Bears’ pre-NCAA championship strategy actually minimized golf.
“We took a little down time,” Goble said of the week between NCAA regional play and Florida arrival. “We had short two-hour practices for the seven days coming into nationals where I’m sure a lot of people were playing 18 holes and grinding it out. I knew that this week was going to be A.) hot, B.) on a really hard golf course and C.) it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We tried to plan for that.”
“Try to get them to sleep,” Brooks said. “That’s the best thing. Even a little nap in the van can be helpful.”
“Every hole I say myself to have three sips of water,” Maymon said. “It’s been kind of a trend. And then if I feel a little tired it means I’m dehydrated and I haven’t done a good job. So I feel like doing what I’m doing, it’s going to work.”