Faced with the unprecedented circumstance of multiple athletic shutdowns this fall, the Lehigh men’s and women’s golf teams used their extra free time as an advantage.
It’s tradition for Lehigh’s golf programs to compete in tournaments during the fall and spring, but due to the Patriot League postponing the fall season, this was not feasible. Once word got out over the summer that there would not be a competitive season in the fall, some student-athletes on both teams opted not to return to campus at all.
The women’s team had three team members return for the fall. Women’s golf head coach Mary Kate Lynch said the campus shutdown worked in favor of those who stayed home since they were able to practice more than those who came back.
“It actually ended up being the right decision for those girls – I mean, obviously, it was the right decision no matter what – but they actually got to practice more at home due to the restrictions that Lehigh had put on us with athletics,” Lynch said. “So they actually ended up being able to practice every single day, where we only got three weeks or so.”
While the team was essentially split in half in the fall with three players at school and four at home, Lynch said the team was able to remain close, primarily through Zoom calls. She said there was one full-team meeting every week, and the coaching staff held individual meetings with each team member every week.
Lynch said although it was unusual to not have the majority of her team at school during the season, it worked out because she was able to become closer with the smaller group in Bethlehem.
“It was definitely different to have only three girls on the team, but it was good because I could really develop personal relationships with those three, especially one freshman,” Lynch said. “It was nice to get to know her and her game.”
In addition to the weekly synchronous team meetings, the team organized activities in such a way that even if completed in isolation, there was still a sense of “togetherness” through it all.
Senior Angela Ding said this helped maintain the focus and the feeling of a team.
“We all had a unified way of practicing,” Ding said. “We did the same drills, played the same number of holes each week and we all recorded (the results) to Google Sheets, so that was a nice way to stay connected and feel like we were practicing as a team.”
Ding is the lone only senior on the women’s team this year. While there was no competitive season happening, there was a need for strong leadership with half of the group working remotely.
Ding knew challenges would arise with the team being so distant, but she credits the sophomores for their assistance in managing everything.
“I personally had a lot of stuff going on with a side job and also senior year classes – it was a lot for me to handle,” Ding said. “But I didn’t even need to ask the sophomores for help, they willingly stepped forward, and I’m very grateful and appreciative of all their help.”
Fifth-year Owen Quinn thought he’d be wrapping up his Lehigh golf career last spring until he was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after the season was canceled. He said the men’s team had six out of nine players in Bethlehem and a seventh who commuted on practice days from his home, just north of Philadelphia.
However, when the university shut down occurred on Sept. 29, Quinn said that all but three of the team’s first-year athletes returned home immediately and by the semester’s end, the remaining three players had also taken off and returned home.
As a Holden, Massachusetts resident, Quinn said going home at the time of the shutdown was an easy decision because he could continue practicing at his local course, where he played most of the summer.
“When that happened, there was really no reason for me to be at school,” Quinn said. “I’ve been much luckier than a lot of the other sports in that we could still play golf pretty much this whole time. There was a month early on when COVID first broke out where courses were closed up here in Massachusetts, but then they all reopened. So for me, it was a no-brainer to go home.”
While both teams were practicing for a season they weren’t sure was going to happen, on Jan. 8, the Patriot League announced both programs will have a spring season. The men’s team is set to compete in the Wildcat Invitational on April 12., while the women’s team will be playing at the Monmouth Hawk spring series on March 8.