BYU women’s golfers thriving in offseason tournaments

The BYU women’s golf team was on a roll with only one regular-season tournament remaining when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Cougars had placed in the top five in six of their eight events and were looking to reclaim the West Coast Conference title they won in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The chance never came, however, as the pandemic forced most amateur and professional sports leagues throughout the U.S. to shut down.

After four months without a single tournament to participate in, a number of BYU women’s golfers have returned to the course to compete with little signs of rust in local and national summer amateur events.

“It’s been really great having the girls compete again,” BYU women’s golf head coach Carrie Roberts said. “There’s nothing like these events to get the competitive juices flowing again and our girls have been doing great.”

BYU women’s golfer Allysha Mae Mateo follows her shot at Riverside Country Club on Oct. 3, 2019. Mateo reached the Round of 32 at the North & South Amateur in North Carolina on July 15 after not having participated in a golf tournament for over four months. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

Junior Allysha Mae Mateo returned to action on July 14 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She competed in one of the more prestigious U.S. amateur golf tournaments: the North & South Amateur. Mateo, who won her first collegiate event last season, qualified for the tournament in part because she ranked 212 in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking.

Despite a four-month break from competition, Mateo finished the stroke-play portion of the event tied for 13th place out of 123 golfers after carding rounds of 71 (-1) and 73 (+1). The Honolulu, Hawaii, native made the cut for the tournament’s match-play round of 32.

“It was exciting finally being able to compete again,” Mateo said. “I was also kind of nervous at first about how I would perform, with it being my first tournament back and it being such a big tournament. But in the end, I was happy with the way I played.”

Mateo, who eventually fell to Duke’s Gina Kim in the Round of 32, now faces a quick turnaround before her next event. Mateo is set to compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Aug. 3-9 in Rockville, Maryland.

Sophomore Kerstin Fotu and senior Naomi Soifua also returned to competition last week at the Utah State Women’s Amateur at Soldier Hollow Golf Course. Fotu and Soifua reached the quarterfinal round of the event, which, since both were on the same side of the bracket, resulted in them being matched up against each other.

BYU women’s golfer Kerstin Fotu takes a shot from a bunker at Riverside Country Club on Oct. 3, 2019. Fotu reached the semifinals of the Utah State Women’s Amateur at Soldier Hollow Golf Course on July 16 after defeating her BYU teammate Naomi Soifua in the quarterfinals. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

“Both Kerstin and Naomi played really well last week,” Roberts said. “It was kind of unfortunate they got paired up against each other that early on in the tournament, but that’s okay. Both of them were definitely capable of winning the event.”

Fotu, the 2019 Utah State Women’s Amateur champion, ended up defeating her Cougar teammate Soifua to reach the semifinals.

“Playing against Naomi was a lot of fun,” Fotu said. “It just felt like we were back at practice. We’re both really competitive so it felt good to come out on top.”

Fotu, who was battling a shoulder injury sustained just days prior to the event, then narrowly fell to eventual champion and 16-year-old Grace Summerhays. Fotu and Soifua now plan on joining their teammate Annick Haczkiewicz at the Utah Women’s Open Aug. 3-4 at Thanksgiving Point.

Although much uncertainty remains surrounding the return of college sports this fall, the BYU women’s golf team is preparing as if the season will begin as planned in September. The Cougars continue to practice together on a regular basis and remain on the lookout for various competitions to keep their game up to par.

“I think mentally, just being in that competitive headspace again is huge,” Mateo said. “When you’re in the middle of the season, it’s easier to get there since you’re competing almost every week. But now, when there aren’t as many tournaments going on, it’s difficult to get back into that headspace. So being able to get out there again and realizing that I can compete at that level again has been great.”

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