With some conferences playing and others not, Golfweek is pulling back the curtain on this unique college golf season with first-hand journal entries from players and coaches across the country. First up is Wake Forest sophomore and Ireland native Lauren Walsh.
After the abrupt end to our spring season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my head was left spinning. I decided to return to Ireland and in the beginning it was so nice to be back home. I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which is really important to me.
After a few weeks of strict lockdown, very little golf and some cold Irish weather, I knew I definitely wanted to come back to Wake Forest. I missed my friends, my team, the facility, and of course the good weather. I spent much of the summer hoping restrictions and travel bans would be lifted in order to allow me return. Every day I would wake up and check my phone to see if there were any more updates on travel, and eventually after a few weeks with the situation looking worse and worse I came to accept that I wouldn’t step back on campus until January.
I was fully convinced that I wouldn’t get back, so to say I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got word that I could return is an understatement. I was ecstatic. Once I figured out the logistics of the quarantine, I booked my flight and the countdown began.
I knew the ACC wouldn’t be playing fall golf, but for me, the decision to return was easy. I knew that if I came back to Wake there was no question that I would be better off. The facilities we have access to here are simply incredible. They are the best facilities a golfer could dream of and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to train here every day.
My team was another huge reason why I really wanted to come back. Both of our coaches, Kim Lewellen and Ryan Potter, create an amazing training environment for us that really drives us to get that little bit better every day. They bring incredible energy and enthusiasm to practice and this is something that I knew would help me improve and become a better player in these coming months. And when it came to the gym, I knew if I stayed at home I wouldn’t see the inside of a gym with the strict restrictions still in place. But if I came back to school not only would I have access to a gym for three sessions a week, I would be training alongside my teammates, pushing each other to get better.
This semester definitely looks very different compared to last year. We now have our temperature checked every morning before using our athletic facilities and we are regularly monitoring our symptoms on an app on our phones. There are obviously a lot of other regulations on campus that we have to follow with masks and other protocols but it has honestly become the new normal. Besides all the new COVID-19 regulations, much of our day-to-day schedule still looks the same. We still have early morning workouts, then class (which is online for the most part), followed by practice. Then it’s eat, sleep and repeat! Time management is as important as ever for us.
While not getting to compete this fall has been super frustrating, we as a team have really tried to make the most of the situation. We are trying our best to stay competitive, so one of my teammates and two members of our men’s team have started a regular Ryder Cup-style match. The teams are Rachel Kuehn and Parker Gillam (USA) against Alex Fitzpatrick and myself (Europe). Team Europe has been dominating so far in our matches and we don’t plan on letting up anytime soon.
Our coaches are also really helping us keep competitive. They’ve organized mini-tournaments among our team on the weekends for us to play and compete. As a team we have a panel of 10 really strong and competitive players, with five of us ranked inside the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. So even though we are only competing against each other, it’s still some really tough competition. I think overall as a team we are dealing with this unique semester really well. We are all using this time to get better each day to work towards our own goals which all contributes to the goal of our team: winning a national championship.
So while it’s been disappointing and challenging that we’re not competing, we are making the most of the situation while staying positive – and most importantly – safe and healthy.
About Lauren Walsh
In her shortened freshman season due to the pandemic, the Kildare, Ireland, native was a consistent star for Wake Forest. Appearing in all seven events, she earned six top-25 finishes and was an honorable mention All-American for the Demon Deacons.