Tennessee tourney gives Bears early look at elite competition

Although the NCAA Championships do not begin for another eight months, the Cal women’s golf team faces similar competition at this weekend’s Mason Rudolph Tournament.

“We’re going in there to compete, number one,” coach Nancy McDaniel said. “And number two, we want to get a chance to look the course over for the NCAA Championships in spring.”

The team heads over to the Vanderbilt Legends Club North Course in Franklin, Tenn., this weekend, with tee times beginning on Friday at 6 a.m. PST.

After coming in at fifth at Colorado State’s Ptarmigan Ram Classic two weeks ago, the Bears, led by McDaniel, look forward to a greater challenge their next tournament, an 18-team derby that includes top programs like UCLA, Alabama, Duke, Arizona and LSU.

“(The tournament) has a great field, so it’s about trying to commit some of the things we have been doing, before and leading up to this tournament.” senior Daniela Holmqvist said. “We want to see how that plays out against other top teams.”

After finishing 12th in last year’s NCAA Championships, due in part to the strength of its short game, the team knows there is great room for improvement.

“When we got to nationals, we were weak in our mental toughness,” McDaniel said. “A lot of the matches now are going to just be toughing it out.”

Much of this mental strength came from key seniors on the team, one of whom was Pia Halbig, who won the Mason Rudolph individual title in 2010. Halbig had been a mental leader for four years, and her departure leaves a hole on the roster that may be filled by a veteran such as Holmqvist.

“I think the main thing is that we all need to be on the same level,” Holmqvist said. “We want everyone to be playing together and well at the same time.”

Holmqvist and other experienced players on the team look to help incoming freshman by providing them with tips and advice for the field.

“They are all great players coming in so it’s really not about playing advice,” Holmqvist said. “I think we mainly try to help them make the best of their years at Cal, athletically and academically, and we try to help them with time management, since that’s really key to being a student athlete.”

Holmqvist herself has been making the best of her years, participating in various golf tournaments over the summer, many of which brought her much success. She participated in, and won, a small men’s golf tournament, and was selected to compete in an unofficial amateur championship which consisted of the 40 best amateur players in the world.

“Being a senior, I really look forward to continuing the success I had this summer, and I enjoy playing the competitive schedule that we do,” Holmqvist said.