Over the course of the 2015-16 season, the PLNU women’s golf team received national attention as they finished in first place in four out of their eight regular season tournaments, captured a third-place finish at the PacWest Championships, and qualified for nationals where they ultimately finished tenth.
One year later, Lance Hancock’s first season as head coach has been one of transition, changes, and turbulence. Throughout their nine regular season tournaments, the team managed a top four finish in four tournaments, and their highest ranking was a third-place finish at the Cougar Invitational.
“We lost one of our top players last year, Samantha Stockton,” said senior Mariah Fuller. “We meshed really well and were playing well. Now, we have a new coaching staff, and there’s been a lot of change. It’s kind of like a transition year where we iron out the kinks.”
A transition year, indeed. One that began in September with a seventh-place finish in the Art of Golf Classic, an eleventh-place finish in the WNMU Fall Invitational, and an eighth-place finish in the Sonoma State Fall Invitational. This three-tournament stretch was arguably one of the worst in recent memory. Fortunately, there’s been a recent uptick in the results.
“I think we’ve been going into it more with the mentality of ‘let’s have fun,’” said junior Haley Fuller, who explained how the team has adjusted over the course of the season. “That really helped, and it shows in the scores.”
The team will be participating in PacWest Championships next week. Ironically, eleven days after being interviewed, head coach Lance Hancock revealed that Haley and Mariah Fuller will not be making the trip to Hawaii for the most important tournament thus far.
“They’ve been two of the strongest players on the team for many years,” said Hancock. “They can’t make this trip, and from a competitive standpoint, it will hurt us. But from a spiritual standpoint, we are still intact.”
Hancock would not comment on why the Fuller sisters withdrew from the competition.
“I can’t really reflect on that, other than it was a personal decision and I was very, very surprised,” said Hancock.
In some ways, the absence of the Fuller sisters for the PacWest Championships is a microcosm of the entire season. Individually, Haley and Mariah finished in the top 14 at the Mustang Intercollegiate, the team’s final regular season tournament.
“It’s been a funny year. We’ve had a couple players who are seniors, and they’ve been hurt all year,” said Hancock. “This will be Lindsey Redmond’s first tournament since September 2016, when she needed surgery on her shoulder. We’ve had to get creative and bring some people in from the student body to fill out the roster. Their effort has been beyond commendable, but it takes time to figure out how to play in this competition.”
With all the evidence stacked up, it makes a lot of sense as to why it’s been a rough year for this team. Despite the adversity, coach Hancock acknowledged that the team has a primary goal that’s not measured in numbers or rankings.
“My personal pride has been put in check,” said coach Hancock. “We are a group. It’s an individual sport in a team environment… When we compete, we think about how awesome it is to be here and play for the glory of God. Regardless of where we finish, there’s more important things. We just want to show what Point Loma is really about.”
The PacWest Championships will be held in Turtle Bay, Hawaii from Monday, April 24 to Wednesday, April 26.