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Junior Car­oline Andrews and freshmen Callie Shinkle and Grace Balkan pose inside the golf sim­u­lator. (Photo: Jo Kroeker | Col­legian)

All three women knew they’d have to give up golf to come to Hillsdale College. None of them thought that together, they’d practice with the men’s team and compete rep­re­senting Hillsdale.

“They should’ve been playing Division I golf some­where, to be honest,” men’s coach Nate Gilchrist said.

The trio, junior Car­oline Andrews, and freshmen Grace Balkan and Callie Shinkle, began prac­ticing with the men’s team in the fall. While their group is still in the process of joining the college club team, they hit hun­dreds of balls and weight train just like any golf team preparing for tour­na­ments.

“We have women who deserve oppor­tu­nities to compete, so we’re going to find that for them,” men’s coach Mike Harner said. Those oppor­tu­nities include an invi­ta­tional in Ken­tucky March 17 – 18 and the G-MAC Cham­pi­onships April 23 – 24.

Golf was always a part of Andrews’ life. She even con­sidered going to college on a golf schol­arship. When she came to Hillsdale, she found a way to keep golfing — prac­ticing with the men’s team her freshman year.

After one year of sports rem­i­niscent of “She’s the Man,” Andrews said she got lonely. And of course, “life got busy,” according to Gilchrist.

But then Balkan and Shinkle also came to campus and con­nected through their dorm. The three started prac­ticing together soon after.

For Andrews, this is a dream come true.

Gilchrist said, there were good women golfers on campus before, but there wasn’t a group. “Now, we can point to some­thing,” he said.

Balkan is the one taking the bull by the horns. They’ll have team meetings, which Balkan empha­sized with verbal air quotes, at Rough Draft, and lift together. In some ways, this sit­u­ation is ideal: it’s no com­mitment, and it’s a small entrance fee to compete in tour­na­ments.

It started with Andrews, and even with three, it’s still easy to manage, Gilchrist said, com­paring how this club formed to the roots of the men’s team, which started with 12 members.

“I didn’t have to sit back and think. We need to have a women’s team. There are a lot of schol­ar­ships that go unused for women’s golf, and it’s a good mar­keting tool for them,” Gilchrist said. “A guy will take a good female golfer seri­ously.”

Andrews echoed Gilchrist with the classic golf adage, deals get closed on the golf course.

In the meantime, Andrews, Balkan, and Shinkle all agreed that this arrangement brought them together in friend­ships that oth­erwise wouldn’t have hap­pened.

“It’s fun for the three of us to be together,” Andrews said.

The fun atmos­phere extends to the light banter between the women and the men’s team.  

“We crashed the party,” Andrews said.

“You’re as much a part of the team as they are,” Gilchrist said.  

“It’s fun, they’re great. They have to put up with all of it,” Balkan said.  

Gilchrist said guys and girls do play dif­fer­ently. Girls play with more finesse. They control their atti­tudes and out­bursts on the course, whereas guys play a more pow­erful, and in some ways more reckless, game. Tra­di­tionally, he said, women have more patience chipping and putting.

“There’s a reason campus GPA is higher,” Gilchrist said. “It’s a will­ingness to be taught, coached.”

Balkan said she tries to spread awareness of the club team through word of mouth, sending emails and coor­di­nating lunches with girls who are inter­ested.

They’re on the lookout for more women golfers. “We’re going to track ‘em down,” Balkan said.

 

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Kudos to these ladies for taking the bull by the horns and forming a Club level team. Actually, Hillsdale needs an inter­col­legate Golf team for ladies. There is no excuse for it in this day and age. We have a men’s team, the costs can’t be that much higher to field a women’s team as well. Club teams are fine, but they don’t get the exposure for the uni­versity that a varsity team gets. The interest is there, the skilled players are there, why not a formal team? You know how I think on the matter, Pres­ident Arnn and Ath­letic Director Brubacher! Great article, Ms. Kroeker.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Actually, chipping and putting has been my saving grace. My approach game is poor and I when it comes to woods I’m better off ham­mering nails with them than hitting off the fairway. Who said ‘You drive for show but you putt for dough?’, that should be my credo. I should maintain 7 clubs in my bag-a solid putter and the Cleek to the Spade-Mashie, then I’d stay out of trouble. For the most part.