Something is missing from the Athletic Department this year, although not many students may be aware of it. After eight seasons, and a noble effort from everyone involved, the Women’s Golf Program was officially discontinued in July. Ultimately, a lack of interest from women golfers has made it impossible to sustain a team. A look at the history of the program proves that cutting the team was the best possible decision.
The history of the women’s team began in 2008. Tom Schreiner took a position as the head golf coach in 2006, at which point only a men’s program existed. Two years later, in 2008, he began building a women’s team. Over eight years the Athletic Department focused a significant amount of energy into developing the women’s program, and one notable player produced from the program is Jordan Stern. Stern, (formerly Agate), played in the 2011 NCCAA National Championships and experienced great success throughout her time playing for Covenant. Despite the success of Jordan and other talented players, the program never gained much momentum. According to Schreiner, Covenant has never taken more than two players to tournaments. By NCAA standards, a roster should include at least six players, but Covenant’s roster has never been filled. This means that there have never been enough quality players to compete in tournaments, putting Covenant at a disadvantage. Schreiner left the coaching position in 2011, and for the next few years the program transitioned through three other coaches, with Jack Belote being the most recent.
Last semester, Coach Belote was approached by multiple colleges interested in hiring him, and this initiated a discussion in the Athletic Department regarding the women’s program. After Belote accepted a position as head coach for Millsaps College, Covenant’s Athletic Department made the decision to cut the team. Tom Schreiner is once again coaching the men’s golf team, but only part time. Schreiner is taking on the Men’s Golf Team in addition to his full time job as Director of Business Operations, and simply does not have enough energy or time to commit to giving the Women’s Golf Program the attention it needs. The lack of interest has not changed since the inception of the women’s team, and this year’s team would have consisted of only two players. According to Schreiner, the landscape of NCAA women’s golf needs to change if Covenant is going to restart the program. Women’s golf across the NCAA lacks the interest needed for teams to compete at a collegiate level. Tim Sceggel, Covenant’s Athletic Director, noted that many NCAA golf scholarships go unused at colleges across the nation, meaning that there are simply not enough women golfers competing at the collegiate level. Without quality players, a team cannot compete at tournaments effectively, and in Covenant’s case, there were not enough players at all. Therefore, competing at a collegiate level was impossible.
Ellie Blauw, a junior at Covenant, fondly remembers her two years on the Covenant golf team. After growing up surrounded by golf, she began to play competitively her junior year of high school. She joined her brother, Nick Blauw, at Covenant and became a key piece on the Women’s Team for her freshman and sophomore years. Belote called her over the summer letting her know of his transition, and Kyle Taylor called later on to let her know that the team had been discontinued. The Athletic Department graciously offered to cover entrance fees to tournaments and gave Ellie access to the golf course. According to Blauw, golf is not a sport that students can begin playing on a whim, and; therefore, it is hard to spark interest in college-aged students unless they played competitively in high school. Ellie said, “Some of my fondest memories are from playing golf with my brother during my freshman year at Covenant. I have gained so many valuable relationships from the men’s and women’s golf teams.”
Covenant originally began the women’s program because of the success that the men’s team experienced. This year, the men’s program has a full roster and anticipates a successful season, but without the companionship of the women’s team. Sceggel noted that cutting the team will not cause an issue with Title IX Gender Equity. There is no male counterpart to the women’s volleyball team, so there are equal athletic opportunities for both genders. The Track and Field Program, now in its second year, provides another opportunity in an area where women have shown a far greater interest. For now, the Athletic Department has no plans to restart the women’s golf team, but everyone involved in the past decade certainly gave it their best shot, leaving it a program for the history books.