Chattanooga women’s golf coach Colette Murray doesn’t like to make statements her team can’t back up, so when she says the team she’s watching hit wedge shots on a crisp February afternoon is the best “top to bottom,” she’s coached since helping revive the program in 2007, that statement bears further review.
There are no Emma de Groots or Christine Wolfs—stalwarts from her first four seasons that are currently playing professional golf—but this team, a veritable United Nations with players from France, Canada, Denmark, Columbia and Australia to go along with Chattanoogan Jordan Britt, is seven deep, filled with young but experienced players steeled by years of international competition.
“We’ve never had seven players who could play before,” Murray said. “I could put any five in the lineup and I’d be happy.”
The battle for the fourth and fifth spots on the traveling team is ongoing, but there’s no doubt about the Mocs’ top three. Jordan Britt, a junior, led UTC in stroke average during the fall season, which was topped off by a win in the Mocs’ final tournament, the Lady Paladin Invitational. Another junior, Marion Duvernay of France, and freshman Emily McLennan of Australia played in every fall tournament.
Duvernay is hoping she and her teammates can regain the momentum with which they ended the fall season. Duvernay won the Lady Paladin tournament, her first collegiate victory, and the Mocs rallied to beat host Furman for the team title.
“It would have been good if we could have kept on going,” Duvernay said. “We were starting to play well together. To think we had to stop for a little bit … you don’t know when you start again where you’re going to be at. Your mind is resting, then to start this process again, it takes a little bit of time. It’s taking a while to go back to that level of mentality.”
On Tuesday, the Mocs were hard at work doing just that, working on their short games in preparation for their first spring tournament, the Central District Invitation in Parrish, Fla. Feb. 18-19.
Murray is hoping one of her top three will rise to the level of de Groot or Wolf, a player capable of leading the way with a strong individual performance. Britt was that player in the fall.
“Jordan’s really developed while she’s been here,” Murray said. “She’s become a wonderful player, a key player for us. She’s also a leader.”
Murray also has high hopes for McLennan.
“Emily is going to be a player,” Murray said. “We tweaked some things with her short gae in in particular her putting in the fall. It takes a while to get used to those things, and then she gets throw into competition. It’s hard.
“But she’s feeling a lot more comfortable and is happy with her progression.”
Murray has guided the Mocs to the NCAA regionals every season since the program was reinstated, but she wants to advance to the finals. Could this be the year?
“Our goals are set very high,” Murray said. “They all have their individual goals as well. If they take care of their business, the team will take care of itself.”
Murray is hoping that means another Southern Conference championship, a trip the NCAA finals and a final ranking befitting those accomplishments.
“I know we’re a top 35 team, if not better,” Murray said.