golf

The 2010s was a remarkable decade for the Whitman women’s golf program.

A stretch in which the Blues experienced six out of seven seasons when they finished in the top 15 in the NCAA Division III Golfstats.com poll commenced in 2012. Whitman ended three of those years in the top 10. It placed eighth in 2016, ninth in 2017 and seventh in 2018.

“2018 was unique in that we had two first-team All-Americans — senior Phoebe Nguyen and junior Shiyang Fan,” Whitman coach Skip Molitor said. “Any time you have two first-team All-Americans, you’re going to be in the hunt at the highest level. They were aptly supported by Hannah Roh, Kacey Godwin, Ally Collier, Emma Beyer, Jhunam Sidhu and Helen Maslen.”

Nguyen was also runner-up national Player of the Year, Molitor said.

Fan was a four-time, first-team all-Northwest Conference choice and was NWC Player of the Year in 2019, Molitor said.

Nguyen was named second-team NCAA All-American in 2016 and Fan was honorable-mention, Molitor said.

The Blues shared the Northwest Conference championship with George Fox in 2012, 2016 and 2019.

“It’s been an amazing rivalry,” Molitor said. “As successful as we have been, they’ve gone above and beyond that. It’s brought out the best in both programs.”

Molitor’s first recruiting class — which graduated in 2013 — “broke through and got us off to a great start,” he said. “They elevated the program to the national level — great student-athletes from supportive parents.”

Key performers in 2012 — juniors Tate Head and Caitlin Holland, sophomores Catelyn Webber, Katie Zajicek, and Elaine Whaley, and freshman Kelly Sweeney — built on Whitman’s surge of success, Molitor said. Head and Zajicek were named to the D-III West Region team.

“They got us started,” Molitor said. “They got the ball rolling. They won the conference and automatic berth for the national tournament.”

Whitman took 12th at nationals, Molitor said.

“That team did a fabulous job of getting us on the national stage,” Molitor said.

The Blues claimed one of two at-large bids to the national tournament in 2016, Molitor said. Whitman was led by Lou Points and Alyssa Maine along with Nguyen and Fan.

“It was the only year when the scoring average for our top four players was in the 70s,” Molitor said.

Whitman continued its stellar play the following fall when it finished that portion of its season No. 2 nationally, Molitor said.

A handful of Whitman athletes enjoyed academic acclaim from 2016-19, Molitor said. Both Fan and Collier earned spots on the D-III Scholar All-America Team four times. Nguyen made on three occasions, Godwin twice and Sidhu once.

This spring season was highlighted by a seventh straight triumph in the UPS Logger Invitational, but was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

But what a ride the 2010s turned out to be.

“Every student-athlete we have recruited to this point has had the opportunity to play in a national tournament,” said Molitor, currently in his 45th year of coaching. “It’s a string we’re hoping to continue. I’ve loved wrapping up my coaching career with our women’s golf program.”

Roy Elia can be reached at royelia@wwub.com.