When Ming Lao talks about the women’s golf team, his excitement is palpable. In his first seven years at Chapman, first as an assistant coach, and then as head coach in 2013, Lao only coached the men’s team.
That changed last year, when the women’s team formed at Chapman. But the novelty of a new team was met with some drawbacks. Lao said he struggled to find players willing to put the team above their other commitments. But this year, the culture changed. In the team’s second season, it finished second in the conference championship, while the men’s team has never finished higher than fifth.
“I am glad the team has a sense of wanting to do well,” Lao said. “Because it’s Division III, it makes it hard for people to be completely involved.”
Lao found that desire to be involved in Emily Lewis, a junior All-SCIAC first team player, and Lauren Settle, a freshman All-SCIAC second team player.
The roster last year was often disjointed due to player absences for school events, classes and other commitments.
“That’s the way it goes,” Lao said. “(Now) we have more of a core group of girls who are committed.”
Lao thinks the team has “grinders” this year: players who devote themselves to and enjoy practice. Settle, who finished No. 23 overall – 32 over par – in the SCIAC Championship, is one of those players. She credits her success as a freshman to the friendliness of other players and Lao’s coaching.
“The girls are all very welcoming,” Settle said. “I really like Lao, as a coach and a person. He emphasized how he wants academics to come first, and then golf.”
Lewis, who finished No. 4 overall – 11 over par – in the SCIAC Championship, said the team exceeded other coaches’ expectations. At the start of the season, Chapman was ranked sixth out of the eight teams in the SCIAC by SCIAC head coaches. Heading into the final day of the championship April 24, Chapman sat in fourth place.
“We didn’t think we would bounce back from (fourth place), but we did,” Lewis said. “We proved a lot of (those coaches) wrong.”