Q&A with Kim Lewellen
Talk about your team’s performance at the Match Play Championships to open the season where you did not suffer a loss in the head-to-head match play.
Lewellen: We played very well. Right out of the gate, in our stroke play, we were a little rusty over the first four or five holes. After that we played as well, if not better, than we have ever played. I was really pleased with how our All-Americans (Whitney Neuhauser and Calle Nielson) and how our first-years played. I think everyone got more comfortable as we went through the tournament and we gained confidence as we played. We beat Florida and we beat South Carolina and then we lost a tiebreaker to Auburn that was basically just a scorecard type of tiebreaker. I would have loved for us to play them in a playoff setting to see who advanced. We would have loved to play that last match against LSU. The player’s confidence kept building throughout the tournament, which is what you want.
What are your expectations this year for your two returning All-Americans – Calle Nielson and Whitney Neuhauser.
Lewellen: They are both playing very well right now. I expect a lot of them because they are good players and they are our team leaders both on the course and off the course. We have some first years that are performing really well. We just have a lot of people who are playing well. Our qualifying is very tight. We are playing our courses long when we are home for practices and the girls are shooting low scores. So there is a lot of competition to see who plays in tournaments.
Whitey Neuhauser is one of the strongest mental players I have ever seen. We’ll be on the range getting ready and she will tell me, “Coach, I’m going to win this one.” You have to see yourself winning that trophy before you do it and she sees that. I think Calle is the same way. Calle is playing at home this week (at Mason Rudolph Championship) and I think she will play really well. She always plays well when she is comfortable and she will have a lot of people she knows out there.
Talk about freshman Brittany Altomare, who is considered one of the nation’s top freshmen. How has she started her career?
Lewellen: She has made an immediate impact already. I think we will see wins from her. She is a phenomenal player. She brings a high standard of golf that pushes everyone else on the team. She has an outstanding attitude on the golf course. When she is out there, she is working for every shot. She is working to be the best player she can be at all times.
What is your goal for this weekend’s Mason Rudolph Championship?
Lewellen: Our goal is always to win. This might be our toughest competition until NCAAs. We have the NCAA champions, Arizona State, plus USC and UCLA in the field. Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Georgia … all of the top teams are at this tournament. It will be a great test for us to perform well.