40 in 40: Erica Bieniek
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.
Women's Golf: 2000-03
Being one of the best at something is a feather in your cap but being a person who is one of the first to do something, and do it well puts you on a completely different level. Erica Bieniek is possibly the most decorated alumnae of the Western Michigan women's golf program, and she was a part of the team during its infancy.
The women's golf program, as a varsity sport, began during the 1998-99 academic year with eight student-athletes on the roster, but it wasn't until the program's sophomore season that the person who would become one of its best carried her bag for the Broncos.
Bieniek's freshman season of 1999-2000 was one of ups and downs for a team just getting started. There had been earlier variations of a women's golf program in prior to the passing of Title IX, but this edition was the first go at the varsity level at WMU.
Despite not being a part of the inaugural team, Bieniek was the first to stamp her name into multiple areas of the women's golf record book. Her second round 71 at the Lady Bulldog Invitational was the first first sub-par round in program history. She would go on to match that effort two more times in her career and also card a 2-under par 70 in the 2003 Rio Verde Invitational.
As a freshman, Bieniek led the Broncos with an 82.4 strokes per round scoring average. She would go on to lead the team in single-season scoring average in two of the next three seasons, including in each of final two campaigns. She is still the only Bronco women's varsity golfer to lead the team in single-season scoring average three times in a career.
Another first for the program, and Bieniek, came in her senior season as she became the first Bronco to earn First Team All-Mid-American Conference in 2003. She is one of only four Broncos to accomplish that feat.
One accomplishment Bieniek was not able to capture first was tournament medalist. That disctinction belongs to her former teammate Katie Yoder at the 2000 UMKC Kenneth Smith Classic. What Bieniek was not able to do first, she made up for by doing it the most often.
During her career, Bieniek earned tournament medalist honors a program record six times. The closest in comparison are Stephanie Donkin and Laura Bavaird who each won three tournaments during their very successful careers.
Bieniek's first tournament win came at the 2001 Falcon Invitational. She followed with to wins in 2002 at the BSU Cardinal Classic and again at the Huskie Invitational. In 2003, she another milestone that has not been equalled or bettered. She won three tournaments as a senior, winning the Bronco Invitational, the William & Mary Spring Invitational and the Rio Verde Invitational in its inaugural year. She is still the only Bronco to win the tournament WMU hosts in Arizona every spring.
Thanks to Title IX, many young women were known as trailblazers in there respective areas of competition. Erica Bieniek, although not the first to tee off in competition for the Western Michigan women's golf program, blazed the trail for success in Bronco golf and set the standard that all others follow.
Erica Bieniek is eligible for the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.