Mary Harrison, Campus Carrier sports editor
Changes in top players have created challenges for the men’s and women’s Viking golf teams this semester. With two tournaments remaining for the 2022-2023 season, the program looks to finish strong in the conference.
On Tuesday, the women’s team returned from the Stith Invitational just north of Richmond, Virginia, their first time ever to play on the course. The Vikings placed 11 out of 14 teams, including eight that are ranked Top 25 in the nation.
Spring has brought a lot of change in the line-up for the women’s Top 5 players, whose scores count toward Berry’s overall ranking. Two senior team members that typically traveled to each tournament, Allee Mainord and Sarah Beth Scarborough, have stepped back in order to study for graduate school.
Mainord stepped back only for the beginning of the spring, with plans to return. Scarborough’s absence for the entire semester, after competing in most tournaments since Fall 2021, has changed the dynamic of the Top 5, according to third-year senior Anna DeMersseman.
While only one freshman usually travels to tournaments, three opened the semester competition in Savannah due to the team sustaining illness and injuries. Freshmen Amanda Milner and Audrey Stafford have filled two of the Top 5 spots in the team’s other two tournaments.
“It’s the middle of the season, [and] we’re getting into more of a groove,” DeMersseman said. “For the freshmen that are in the Top 5, there’s less nerves there now, and we’re more comfortable playing together.”
Senior Teagan Fritts and sophomore Sydney Bowes carried over some consistency from last semester for the Vikings Top 5, with DeMersseman rounding out the travel team.
Head Coach Brian Farrer, who has coached the men’s and women’s golf teams for over 20 years, said that regardless of line-up changes, the women have faced a tough act to follow this year, since the 2021-2022 season was one of their best years in program history.
Although the team finished fourth in conference, compared to the top three finishes they have enjoyed for over half of their time in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA), they also set multiple records for lowest scores and maintained a Top 20 ranking for most of the season, according to Farrer.
Bailey Plourde, currently a graduate assistant coach for the team, competed in Berry’s Top 5 last year. Plourde was considered one of the best Division III players in the SAA and shot a season best score that broke school records.
With two tournaments left to prepare his line-up for the 2023 post-season, Farrer hopes to see the team finish in the top three at the conference tournament once again.
“We’re on the outside looking in right now, but the group we have, with their dedication and work ethic, I think we’ll be [in national rankings] some point soon,” Farrer said.
The men’s line-up changed more in the fall than this spring, although a rough semester for senior Blake Farbman has created unexpected competition among the team with qualifying for tournaments.
Competing at the Wynlakes Invitational in Montgomery at the end of March, the Vikings posted higher scores than expected, according to sophomore Sam Patterson, partially due to weather cancelling the first round.
A week earlier at the Jekyll Island tournament, however, the men finished 10 out of 30 teams, passing conference opponents Oglethorpe University and Sewanee: The University of the South, who are respectively ranked #9 and #15 nationally among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) DIII teams.
“It’s a tough game,” Patterson said. “You never know what you’re gonna get when you step out on the course, whether you’re going to have you’re A, B or C game, but just trying to be as consistent as you can possibly be and fight to the end in each tournament [is important].”
Farbman, Patterson and his fellow sophomore Jack Stafford have carried over the Top 5 from last semester. Freshman Jay Sanders, competing in the four spot, has stepped up to compensate for Farbman’s off semester, according to Farrer, finishing all-tournament team at Jekyll.
Farrer said he expects to see Farbman’s performance improve over the next two tournaments and believes that the Vikings could even win the SAA if they figure out the right line-up.
“At the end of day, you just need to post a number,” Farrer said. “[The question is] who’s going to be the best at that and be in the right mindset that can get us that number at the end of the day?”