BOGACZYK: Prats Sees Competitive Season for Herd Golf
The Word on the Herd-Aug. 18, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – When the Marshall women’s golf team yells “Fore” to start the 2015-16 season in two weeks, Coach Tiffany Prats will be thinking “eight.”
The Herd’s second-year coach has an expanded roster and an enhanced schedule, a new volunteer coach who is familiar with the neighborhood and something Prats wants to see whether it’s a tournament or intrasquad qualifying workouts.
And you might hear those eight players saying “Si Se Puede” often, too. That’s the Herd’s new slogan, translated “Yes We Can.”
“We’re really going to have some competition this season,” Prats said. “All of the players this year are really going to fight. We had a pretty clear-cut line last year of where our top five were and that isn’t there this year. All eight look to really compete for top five spots.”
When the Herd opens the fall portion of the season Aug. 31 at the five-team Bluegrass Fall Kickoff at the University Club at Arlington in Richmond, Ky., Prats might be playing more newcomers than returnees in her five-player lineup. Marshall has only three returnees – juniors Pimrawee “Ning” Huang and Gabby Marcum and sophomore Leigha Holt -- on the eight-player roster.
It’s a different situation than a year ago, when Prats’ debut season was mostly about creating a culture. Then, Marshall finished with a solid performance in the season-ending Conference USA Tournament, setting the program’s record for a 54-hole event.
“Last year when I came in, I changed a few things, but nothing really crazy just because you don’t want to come in and flip over a program completely,” said Prats, who was a Maryland assistant coach prior to her move to the Herd for her first head coaching job. “But we did change a lot and by the end of the year we were seeing some positive things.
“This year, it’s a whole new roster basically. Everything with the team is totally different and you’ll see a different structure. Last year, we structured practice, but this year we’re changing with a lot more time spent individually with our players.
“Last year we practiced as a team, more so, because we were trying to get everyone on the same page and teach everyone how to practice. This year, there’s going to be a lot more individual attention to our structure and smaller group work. They’re still a team, but if we can help them individually, it will help us a lot.”
Huang, of Nakornpatom, Thailand, and incoming Herd freshman Lauryn Davidson – from Vienna and Parkersburg High School -- finished second and fourth, respectively, in the West Virginia Women’s Amateur last month. Holt, from Holly Springs, N.C., “watched all of her scores get better and better every event last season, and this summer she seems to have played pretty well,” Prats said. “She says her game’s ready to go.
“Ning was here all summer, and also spent a week in North Carolina with my swing coach (April Timmons), so she made some changes this summer and seems to be playing really well.”
Huang, Holt and Marcum – lineup regulars last season – will be tested to stay in the rotation by the newcomers.
Besides Davidson, the Herd roster has added Ylva Forslund of Vreta Kloster, Sweden; Joey Walz of Pittsburgh; Akron transfer Sierra Everson of Gahanna, Ohio; and Sarfina Seretharan of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three of the newcomers are freshmen, with Seretharan a redshirt freshman and Everson a senior.
“Ylva (pronounced el-VUH) has been a little bit under the radar last couple of years,” Prats said. “She’s a really good player and we were lucky to get her. She’s had a really good summer, multiple rounds in the 60s, so we’re really excited to have her join us.
“She’s consistently had that team international play, which I really like because she’s been part of a team in Sweden before. Also, she’s been a little on her own, independent, living a few hours away from family. She’s ready for college.”
Prats said Walz is a back-to-back runner-up on the Class AA PIAA State Tournament for Seton-LaSalle Catholic High School.
“She will make an immediate impact in our lineup,” the Herd coach said. “She’s a player I’ve watched for about four years now. She was committed to another school and the coach left, so she came here. Joey works hard and I see here in our top five.”
Seretharan was with the Herd program last season but was injured and underwent ACL surgery on her right knee in March. “Sarfina looks to be back 100 percent,” Prats said. “She’s been back playing this summer, and says she’s ready to go for first tournament.”
Everson will play her final collegiate season at Marshall after leaving the Zips. She finished eighth in the individual competition in May at the 2015 PGA Minority Collegiate Championship.
“Sierra, I’m really going to look to her for leadership qualities,” Prats said. “We have a young team this year, top to bottom, and she’s played at college level, so among her with Ning, Gabby and Leigha, that should help the younger ones with maturity. Sierra has played in some bigger tournaments, so I that’s really going to help us, too.”
Prats said another newcomer to the Herd could be just as impactful as the new players. Marshall has added Brooke Bellomy, the former star at Cabell Midland High School and 2012 state women’s amateur champion, as a volunteer coach. Bellomy, of Ona, played for a top program at Campbell University and finished hercareer in the NCAA Tournament – again – this spring.
“Brooke is a huge addition to our program,” Prats said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge, playing in a good program like Campbell’s and going to nationals the last couple years is big. She brings that knowledge to the players of how they practice, what they do. She’s someone I really trust.
“I can put her on the golf course and have no doubt that she can get the job done. I trust her with our players. She’s going to help me a lot with how we schedule practices, how we structure things. She’s a volunteer assistant, trying to get a coaching job. She’ll be here this season and then next summer, I will help her get a coaching job.”
Prats has revised the Herd schedule in hopes of helping her team advance in the C-USA Tournament. “The schedule is stronger top-to-bottom,” Prats said. “We threw in a couple of events where we can go and really compete and hopefully get a couple of wins this year. We have a couple of tournaments, too, where we’re going to see better fields.
“One of the big things I focused on is spending more time in Florida. Last year, with C-USA being in Florida, we could have competed a little bit better had we played down there, so we’ll spend spring break down there and play two tournaments (in the Orlando area) and that will help us get used to the grass and surfaces a month before the conference championships.”
The Marshall coach said the start of the season is important, too.
“It’s a new thing for us, the Bluegrass Kickoff, our first event, 36 holes, one day, five teams (Marshall, Western Kentucky, Morehead State, Belmont and host Eastern Kentucky),” Prats said. “It’s basically a shootout and I’ve never done this with a team before.
“It will really be fun to put this team – one that is really solid top to bottom -- in a situation where they have to compete head-to-head. It’s not just qualifying on one of our local courses. We’re going up there and play a practice round the day before. And WKU is there and that’s a good program, and we want to get ahead of the conference early. Having a good day against them there could say a lot about where we’re going this year.”
“Not yet,” Prats said. “I’ve got an idea in my mind, but we’ll let them compete. Ning, she’s got the length, she’s got the tools. It’s a matter of whether she can keep her head in the game. Ylva’s a great player and then we have Leigha, who worked really hard this summer.
“I’m not going to make a prediction going into our first competition. I’m going to let them battle it out.”