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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Golf showing improvement under Cranston

Published April 18th, 2013

Head Coach Matt Cranston has high expectations for his golf team this spring. But after coming off the team’s best finish since 2005, the third-year head coach has every reason to be optimistic. Last season, the team placed fourth in the WIAC.

This is a huge improvement from when Cranston started as coach in 2010 when the team finished seventh and in 2011 when they placed sixth.

However, what has Cranston excited is that the team of nine women return it’s top performers from the fall campaign, including freshman Gillian McDonald.

In her first season with the Falcons, McDonald earned All-WIAC honors and shot the second lowest round in school history at 78. She was the only freshman named to the All-WIAC squad and has already written her name into the Falcon record book.

Out of the top seven rounds, McDonald holds five of those spots, according to the UW-River Falls Athletics website.

Last fall, she averaged 82.5 per round, leading UWRF. Teammate Paige Cook holds the fifth all-time score of 79.

“Gillian will be one of our leaders once again,” Cranston said. “She’s got a nice, solid, sweet swing. Her, along with Abby Lucas and Lauren Schweppe are coming off their best seasons and they keep improving.”

Lucas averaged 94.9 and Schweppe a 99.2. As a team, the Falcons tied the 2005 squad with the best team two-day total of 686 at Wartburg College. This bested the 2011 squad’s record of 693.

Even though the spring season is shorter than the fall season for the Falcons, McDonald said the team is ready to compete.

“We have a strong group of golfers coming back for this spring, as well as a new addition, Chloe Kinsel, to the team. Based on last season, we definitely have a chance to compete for a solid team finish in every tournament. We also have several individuals who are capable of finishing in the top 10 every time,” McDonald said. “Hopefully we’ll all show improvement from match to match and finish with a strong team score at the end of each tournament.”

McDonald, Schweppe and Kinsel all also play on the Falcon women’s hockey team, which is coached by Cranston’s brother, Joe.

“Joe and I share many of the same philosophies. I feel the relationship that we have will help me make the Falcon golf program successful,” said Cranston in his coaching biography on the UWRF Athletics website.

The first tournament for the Falcons is scheduled for April 20 and 21, at Bethel University, but Cranston said that will probably be cancelled due to the weather.

However, he is not concerned about the team getting it’s season in, because he said he usually adds a few extra tournaments to the schedule for the very reason the spring weather in Wisconsin is unpredictable.

While the weather would seem to put a damper on the season and hurt the Falcons’ chance of competing, Cranston said he’s not concerned because “everybody’s in the same boat.” McDonald concurred, but said the weather has mainly affected the team’s preparations.

“The weather has had a big effect on our spring season. We haven’t been able to practice outside at all, so instead we have been hitting balls into nets in Knowles. The recent snowfall is definitely a setback for us because we would like to play a few practice rounds on the course before our first match on April 20, assuming that the golf courses will be open by then,” McDonald said.

Even though the weather has forced changes for the team, Cranston said the biggest key to being successful in golf is the mental aspect.

“You can have all the talent, but if your head’s not in it, you won’t go far. That is always the biggest thing. When you’re out there competing and the crowd is quiet and you have to concentrate so hard, it can be mentally draining,” Cranston said.

Cranston was named the 2010 WIAC Coach of the Year and is a former Falcon himself.

He played golf and lettered for the Falcons in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and earned his undergraduate degree in agriculture economics in 1985, according to UWRF Sports Information.

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