If you haven’t heard of the Chapman women’s golf team, that’s probably because, prior to this year, it didn’t exist.
The need for the team came when Chapman joined the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) under the condition that it would form new sports teams. When Chapman added the men’s golf team four years ago, it did so with the expectation that within four years, it would have a women’s golf team as well.
“I’m so excited. This was overdue, but I’m glad it’s here,” said Ming Lao, head coach of Chapman men’s and women’s golf teams. “Chapman is a great university that deserves to host the women’s team and the conditions here are a great fit for athletics – particularly golf, since we play year round.”
As this will be the team’s first season competing, Lao said he was open to anyone that wanted to join the team.
“It’s our inaugural season, so I was very receptive to interest at any level of experience,” Lao said. “We didn’t have the numbers that could justify turning someone away.”
Despite the open call for players, the team Lao assembled does boast players with years of experience and talent.
“The conference is pretty tough,” Lao said. “Redlands, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and the like are amongst the top 20 in the nation, so they’re definitely formidable competition. Our junior college transfers definitely have a lot of experience and that shows when they play. So, I like our chances on any given day.”
One of the players with notable experience is Haylie Bantle, who has been playing since she was in the seventh grade and played varsity golf on her high school team.
“It’s really cool to be coming in fresh and being one of the first women’s golf team members here,” Bantle said. “I feel really cool to be a golfer, because people will say golf is so boring, but in reality it’s just such a mentally and physically demanding game.”
She expressed excitement for the upcoming season and said that the team is bonding and slowly building relationships with each other.
“With us, there’s no personal competition,” she said. “We encourage each other and want each other to do well individually, because then the team does well too.”
Those thoughts were echoed by co-captain Tessa King.
King has been playing golf for the past five years, but only seriously for the past two. After talking to Lao about it and working with him to improve her game this past semester, she was confident about her place on the team as a leader and her hopes for the season.
“We’ve got a lot of players who transferred from junior college and freshmen who have competed before. Being a brand new team, we haven’t really seen the other teams play,” King said. “We definitely don’t expect to be in the bottom tier and hopefully we break into the middle tier, so we can build ourselves up from there.”
Lao believes that the team was much needed.
“The game needs more players and women’s golf is a part of that need.” Lao said. “I think it’s a good move for everyone, but especially the players because they can look back and say that they were part of the first women’s golf team at Chapman and that’s a big deal.”