ASU women’s golf strives to live up to own expectations

The ASU women’s golf team is close. It did not lose a single player from last season, and its familiarity with each other and hard work in practice has given ASU another winning season under coach Melissa Luellen.

As Luellen explains, it’s not her coaching staff that places its expectations on the team but the team members themselves.

“The team sets goals at the beginning of the season, not me. They want to win a trophy at the NCAA championship,” Luellen said. “They also have the goal of getting better every day which has allowed them to reach each of their tournament goals. They have had a lot of top-five finishes in tournaments this year, which is impressive, considering we have the third-toughest schedule in the country.”

In nine tournaments this season, the Sun Devils placed in the top five in seven of them.

This is also a unique team in that it did not lose any players from last year into this one. It is that familiarity and togetherness that Luellen says has made the Sun Devils all that much stronger.

“This is a very close team, and the upperclassmen have done a great job bringing the freshmen into the group and making them understand how we do things,” Luellen said. “They all feel very supported by each other.”

Luellen said she knows what she’s talking about. ASU has enjoyed a wealth of success under Luellen: She was named Pac-10 coach of the year three times and won the NCAA team championship in 2009.

So what is the secret to success? Luellen says practice, and don’t make it easy.

“The quality of the practice is most important. More simulating golf rather than just working on mechanics of the swing,” Luellen said. “We set up our practices so there is a smaller emphasis on technique and a lot of time hitting shots from random and various situations and then creating a test or competition. This has been a very good formula, and it seems the practice is showing up on the course during tournaments.”

When asked what specifically improved from the start of the season to now, Luellen said their wedge play has gotten better. Perhaps more importantly, Luellen said her team believes in itself more than it did at the start of the season.

This belief in themselves is shown in how they control their emotions during tournaments, as Luellen explains.

“The thing the team has heard most from us is about controlling the controllable,” Luellen said. “Emotional management is very important when a tournament lasts three days. We have seen them really mature in this area, which saves shots.”

ASU fans will hope that the practicing and improvement will show through for their team as the Sun Devils prepare to play in the Pac-12 Women’s Golf Championships in Corvallis, Ore., starting April 25.

Reach the reporter at hkossodo@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @HKossodo