We set off on our first of the season on Thursday afternoon, leaving rainy Toledo to head to Illinois State in Normal, IL. After seven grueling rounds of qualifying over an 11-day period, our team was ready to compete against girls other than teammates. Our six-hour adventure was filled with plenty of singing to Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and other classics. After driving through cornfields galore, we finally arrived back to civilization and went to Logan's Roadhouse for a late dinner. I am sure everyone in the restaurant loved listening to our beautiful renditions of some of Rascal Flatts' chart-toppers. Lucky for us, our resident karaoke singer, freshman Lauren Stephens, led us well.
Friday was our practice round day. After about three-and-a-half hours of off-and-on rain and some looming dark clouds, we all thought we were going to finish without getting soaked. Boy, were we wrong. On the 16th hole, the rain really started coming down and within five minutes, the greens were flooded and unplayable. We put on our Monk rain covers, but unfortunately it was a little late. We finished the round as best as we could, having given up at that point trying to keep anything dry. Before loading up the van to head back to the hotel, we all had to ring out the water from our rain gloves. After we got back and into dry clothes, we went to Olive Garden for dinner. Besides needing to teach our freshmen a few manners (Stephanie flinging a black olive across the table), the dinner was a success and we were all loaded up with our carbs and ready for our long 36-hole day.
Waking up on Saturday morning, there was an obvious excitement from everyone, prepared to start the season with great play. We teed off in our shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. in the lead group. I birdied my first hole, re-establishing my excitement for this team and season. After an exhausting 10-hour day on the course, we hung tough and finished the first two rounds in third place, just two shots out of second and eight back from the lead. Senior Nam Chaiyapan's excellent round of two-under 70 in the second round highlighted the day, making her tied for the overnight lead.
ISU organized an awesome tournament dinner that included a taco bar and a cupcake station, which was delicious! Before we could go to sleep, Coach had something else up her sleeve...an ice bath. She loaded up her bathtub with ice and cold water and told us to get in for 7 minutes. Nam and I led the way and after the initial shock of the freezing cold water on my legs, we sat down and gutted it out. Yes, there was screaming involved, but also plenty of laughter. Kate and Lauren were next and I personally think they screamed even more. Steph and Becky were next and they were the "Ice Bath Champs." With no screaming, they took it like real champs. Now, you may be thinking that the water had started to warm up, but we weren't about to let our student volunteer coach Michelle Hui off the hook. After adding three garbage cans of ice to the bath, she got in. But, Coach came in and told her to call it quits after feeling the water (apparently it was TOO cold.) Who knew an ice bath could be too cold? Fortunately we all survived and we'll just chalk it up as a great team bonding experience. After a great day, we went to sleep feeling confident with the chance to bring home a trophy.
Sunday brought with it great weather and great moods to win a championship. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we wore red, white, and blue ribbons on our hats. The whole tournament crowd took a moment of silence in honor of those who died 10 years ago and to thank those fighting for America today. The third and final round meant tougher pin placements and the drier conditions changed the way to play into the greens. Overall, it was another solid day on the course for the Rockets and we gave it our all. Unfortunately, the team came up three shots shy of a runner-up finish, while the host Redbirds took home the trophy.
However, we didn't come home empty-handed. Our very own Toledo Rocket, Piyathida Chaiyapan (Nam) was tournament co-champion, tying BGSU's Bailey Arnold. The two of them went into a sudden death playoff, with Bailey making birdie on the playoff hole to defeat Nam's par. But Nam certainly made her team and the whole Toledo community proud by her performance this weekend. I personally am so happy for her to be able to start her senior season with her first tournament win. It is a sign for great things to come. You go girl!
I want to take the time to thank our spectators that came out to support us this weekend. I know Illinois is not a short drive for many of you! So, here is a shout out to our fantastic Rocket fans, all decked out in Toledo golf gear: Mr. and Mrs. Hoops, Mr. and Mrs. Stephens, Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth, Mom and Dad (Mr. and Mrs. Schultz). And to all you fans who couldn't be there, thank you for the support and see you at the next one!
This trip was one of the most exciting and fun trips I have been on. There was never a dull moment. Whether it was somehow having a three-person pile up in the hotel hallway, golf bags and all, performing our dinosaur call wherever we go, or quoting "Rick, Rick??" we are a fun bunch. Add in the excitement of being in the hunt for the tournament title and having a teammate in the running for medalist, what is there not to be happy about?!
The next chapter of our season takes place in East Lansing at the Mary Fossum Invitational hosted by Michigan State next weekend. We are going to continue the momentum we have garnered from ISU and run with it. 'Til next time Rocket fans!
Allison Schultz is a junior from Cincinnati, OH who is majoring in exercise science.
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