Golf teams look to spring season return

How the teams have combatted COVID-19 restrictions and irregular seasons


Sydney Smith, Reporter (She/her)

South Dakota State golf teams are back to practicing, and eagerly anticipating a spring season in 2021 after a campaign derailed by the pandemic.

After months of uncertainty and questions about how any athletic seasons would happen, the teams returned to campus with one normal thing to look forward to: practice.

“We try to play within our own team and do little competitions as much as we can to keep competing in some way,” junior Jonah Dohrer said. “We’re just trying to get better right now and to pass some other teams up and try and use it to our advantage.”

Finally having practice and working to keep the team safe is all a part of the goal to have events in the future. Tournaments and meets are scheduled to happen in the coming spring, and their coach is hopeful it all works out.

“The plan is to start in the spring, and that’s what we’re hoping for until we hear otherwise,” senior Cassidy Laidlaw said. “Overall, we know that the future is a little uncertain, but we’ll deal with whatever the future brings better than the other programs are going to. That’s kind of what our goal is.”

The golf team’s season ended in March, just before the SDSU campus closed for the rest of the semester. This left the athletes without regular team practices or access to their equipment in Brookings.

“I have some equipment in the SJAC [Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex], and we haven’t been able to get in there since March,” Dohrer said. “Our coaches haven’t been able to get in there either, so it’s pretty weird.”

Last year’s season was cancelled while the team was out of state for a tournament.

“We played a tournament in Utah and it was a two-day tournament,” Laidlaw said, “but we only got to play the first day because it got cancelled. That’s when the NCAA shut everything down. We missed three tournaments after that, including our conference.”

And that, she said, was something that was pretty tough to come to terms with.

“Having the conference cancelled when we were on a pretty good roll and looking at winning it was tough,” Laidlaw said. “But everyone’s safety is more important.”

While practice is back to normal, the team is also conscious about how they keep their athletes and staff safe. Along with natural social distancing already a part of the sport, they only had minimal adjustments to their practices.

“We don’t do anything indoors,” Director of  Golf Casey VanDamme said. “We don’t do scorecards anymore; we don’t hand out paper to them. We try not to do anything where we can have touchpoints or be close.”

Because the season isn’t starting until the spring, it left some of the international athletes at home for the fall semester.

“With these set issues and getting back into their countries, we didn’t know,” VanDamme said. “So, we had them stay home this fall, but they’ll be back here this January. But we didn’t lose any players from our program, we’re just down a few for practices.”

As for the athletes currently in Brookings, the anticipation to get back to playing has been the main thought during this entire pandemic experience.

“I’m most looking forward to traveling again and being with the team,” Laidlaw said. “Our spring season is pretty loaded with six tournaments, so we’re not home most weekends, but it’s a lot of fun. Especially with it being my senior year, I really do hope that we get to play.”