Golf is generally seen as an individual effort, but it was a team effort that lifted the Grand Canyon University women’s golf program to its best season ever.
The squad had four tournament wins this year, eclipsing the old school record of three that was set during the 2004-05 season, and then went on to finish in fifth place at the regional tournament, also the highest finish ever.
In addition to the tournament wins this year, GCU had four individual medalists who helped the Antelopes to a second straight year of qualifying for the super regional – and just narrowly missed qualifying for the national tournament.
Brittany Penny, the junior from nearby Centennial High School in Peoria, won the first tournament of the season, the Northern Arizona University Mountain Shootout in Flagstaff. Joining her on the list of medalists were junior Ashley Mooney and a pair of freshmen, Tiffany Hewetson and Phoeba Cipa.
Mooney tied for first at the GCU Spring Invitational, Hewetson was tournament medalist at the Dennis Rose Invitational in Hawaii, and Cipa was medalist at the Arizona Christian University Invitational.
“It’s great to have four different players be tournament medalists,” said head coach Don Powers. “Most teams have a standout player, but Grand Canyon has proven to be a well-rounded team.”
However, Hewetson could very easily be put in the category of ‘standout’ player this year.
The freshman from Brighton, England, placed fifth overall at the regional tournament, becoming only the third women’s golfer in school history to qualify for the NCAA D-II National Championship tournament – and the first to do so in her freshman year. Her tie for 23rd overall at the nationals in Michigan is also the best finish in school history.
A strong group of recruits this year has spelled the difference. Hewetson is one of two freshmen from England joining the program this year, along with a pair of college transfers. Penny played a year at Winthrop University after leaving Centennial High, and Mooney transferred in from Daytona State College.
The program is also in new hands this year, with Powers taking over as head coach, while also serving the school as its assistant director of golf. The move was part of a restructuring effort in the Grand Canyon golf program, as the school begins developing a golf management degree emphasis and building its brand in the community.
A two-time All-American while attending Arizona State, Powers played on the pro tour, spent 16 years as the head golf professional at the North Oaks Golf Club in Minnesota, and was an instructor for Purtzer Golf in Phoenix.
Powers can stand back now after a year in the saddle and take a look at the future of the program. He’s got a good crop of recruits coming in, but won’t know what he really has until they show up and begin tournament play.
“They are all strong players,” he says, “and it is really going to be a battle to see which girls are going to step up.”
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)