Women’s golf ready for Heart Tourney


Freshman Annie Raybourn watches her tee shot on a par-3 hole at the Baker Spring Invitational on April 11. Image by Alex Fortuna.

After the Baker men’s golf team ended its season Tuesday with an eighth-place finish in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament, head coach Karen Exon and the women’s team look ahead to their own tournament, which will start Monday in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

“I would be disappointed if we didn’t finish at least second. Obviously I would be a lot happier if we finished first,” she said of the women, who have been second in the Heart standings this spring. “But there are a couple of teams that could give us a run for our money. Grand View is especially a team to be reckoned with.”

Individually, the Baker golf teams swept the Heart Golfer of the Week awards, with sophomore Sam Mitchell taking the award for the women and senior Christian Bickley winning on the men’s side.

“Both of them played really well last week. Christian shot under par for the tournament, which is tremendous,” Exon said. “Sam played so well last week that after the first day, she had nothing to worry about in terms of medaling.”

Following his standout performance, Bickley and the men finished eighth out of 11 teams in the tournament. Grand View University won the tournament, gaining an automatic bid in the NAIA National Tournament.

“We were rated or ranked eighth most of the year, so we finished about where we were expected,” Exon said, adding that they were very close to seventh place,” Exon said.

The Wildcats played under adverse playing conditions in Booneville, Missouri, which Exon said the players adjusted to accordingly.

“The conditions were awful, it was very cold and very windy,” she said. “It was not a fun day on the golf course for anyone, but the guys handled it very well. Alec Wuellner played really well for us all three rounds, and he was the leader of the team throughout the tournament.”

Bickley was unable to replicate his performance from the week previous, but was still one of the standout performers for the Wildcats.

“Christian had an unfortunate first round, but I was pleased with the way he was able to bounce back the other two rounds,” Exon said. “He’s been our senior leader on the course all season. Overall, it was a good trip, although they all felt like they left some strokes out there, but I was proud of their efforts.”

For the women, they will look to unseat No. 25 William Penn University, which has held the top spot in the Heart all season.

“We’ve played them twice, and they’ve beat us both times, but we’ll see how it plays out next week,” Exon said.

She has an idea of the score needed to win the tournament, as well as an idea of the players’ mindset going into the tournament.

“We’ve played solid all spring long, with our average round being around 336 or 337,” Exon said.

But she expects that in order to win, they’ll need to cut down to rounds of 315 to 320.

“We’ve talked about it a lot, and they’ve practiced hard, so they know that they need to step up.”

Exon believes that Mitchell, along with seniors Kaci Dillingham and Amber Mechtley, will be the ones to set the pace for the Wildcats.

“Sam is a great role model that leads by example,” she said. “Kaci and Amber’s experience in the national tournament a few years ago is also very helpful.”