When the ink dries on letters-of-intent, coaches start to envision the impact their new players will make.
There is no doubt Lisa Johnson wanted an immediate impact from her freshmen but there aren’t any guarantees when the transition from high school to college takes hold. For this group of freshmen, however, the impact was everything their head coach could have imagined.
"The freshmen have been a blessing," said Johnson, who used the signing of five newcomers to fill a team that had only one junior – Amanda Jacobs, and one sophomore – Dani Madden, returning. "All of them have shown up at different times. ... We need to work on our consistency but that definitely will come with experience at the college level."
Johnson said Jacobs and Madden have been instrumental in providing the type of leadership to the young group that has helped ease their transition. Both, however, sustained injuries – Jacobs a wrist and Madden a concussion, that impacted their fall play.
"Both of them have done an excellent job of helping the freshmen transition to campus life and college golf," Johnson said. "It was unfortunate that Amanda hurt her wrist so early but she’s a tough competitor and very dependable. Her wrist is healed now and we look for her to have her best tournament performances of her Vandal career this spring."
Her supporting cast is rated No. 3 in Golfstat.com’s Freshman Impact Rankings.
Kayla Mortellaro leads the way with a team-best scoring average of 73.33, which includes two top-10 outings and a fall during which she never finished out of the top 25. Her best tournament was a runner-up at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. Next was a tie for fourth at the Giustina Memorial Classic.
Teo Poplawski had the team’s second-best scoring average with a 76.80 after playing in five of six fall events. Her top outing was a tie for seventh at the Challenge at Wolfdancer.
Rounding out the freshmen group are Frida Nilsson, who had a fall average of 78.33 in six tournaments; Annika Karlsson, with a 79.22 in six events, and Gracie Schory, who saw action at the Heather Farr Invitational and the Giustina Memorial Classic.
"They’ve proven to be a team of freshmen who are good at ham-and-egging it, which has been critical to our success thus far," Johnson said. "All have proven they can shoot low. I’m extremely impressed with how they handled the need for their scores to count.
"It’s been great to coach such a willing, hard working and highly skilled team. They have the ability to be, by far, the most successful women’s golf team at Idaho."
A promising fall leads to a spring with potential for the University of Idaho men’s golf team.
Coach Jon Reehoorn’s blend of newcomers and veterans yielded what might be expected of a comparatively new collection of players. There were highs – second at the 18-team Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate and fourth at the 18-team Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate, and a couple events the Vandals were glad to put behind them.
One thing was clear – the emergence of true freshman Jarred Bossio as a college-ready player. Bossio led the team in scoring with an average of 73.44 strokes per round, which propelled him to two top-10 finishes and a total of four top-25 efforts in six tournaments.
Senior Russell Grove, the most veteran of the Vandals, had a solid fall despite forgetting to sign his scorecard in the season opener and failing to finish. For the five tournaments he completed, Grove averaged 74.47 strokes per round and had one top-10 finish.
The rest of the lineup was a mix of juniors Brad Tensen and David Nuhn and freshmen Christopher Cho and Stefan Richardson as Reehoorn sought the consistency throughout the ranks he knows the Vandals need to be contenders.
"The key this spring is simple – consistency," Reehoorn said. "As a team, we have to be able to be ready to play each and every time we tee it up in a tournament. A lot of that has to do with believing we belong with the upper echelon of college golf teams, which I’m confident we do."
Reehoorn’s belief in his team is founded on what he sees regularly during tournament play and practice rounds. He just wants to see the same high level every stroke, every round.
"Winning the WAC championship is a realistic goal for this team," Reehoorn said, "but we’ve got to be more consistent each and every day whether it is in the weight room or at practice . If we can give a consistent effort in everything, I believe it will lead to more consistent results on the course in competition."
Key in achieving the goal of a conference title is the play of Grove and Bossio along with the two juniors – Tensen and Nuhn.
"Jarred definitely is going to be a key to our success in the spring but, ultimately, our success will be determined by getting more consistent play from the rest of the lineup," Reehoorn said. "Each of them has shown the ability to play at a high level. I have to help them play three solid rounds per tournament instead of just one or two.
"Russell has the ability to win the individual conference championship. For him, it is a matter of believing he belongs. If he does, he will have the opportunity to put himself in position to win this spring."