Q & A with Kim Lewellen
The Virginia women’s golf team opened its season with an eight-place finish at the Fall Preview, a tournament that featured 13 of the top 15 teams in the nation. The Cavalier next tourney stop is the Golfweek Conference Challenge which features more representing team from a number of top conferences. Head coach Kim Lewellen sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss the opening of the season.
Question: What are your thoughts on your team’s eighth-place showing at the Fall Preview?
Lewellen: I think that was the strongest field we are going to see until the NCAA’s in the spring. So, an eight place finish, especially after our second and third days, was good. We had to dig ourselves out of a hole after the first day. The girls are playing well and I think they learned a lot from the Fall Preview. They realized that par and one or two under is not going to win them tournaments now. We have the talent to go low. We have girls that can shoot five under. We are working hard on getting the mindset that five under can be a typical day for our team. That is what the competition is out there right now. We have the talent to do it and a lot of it is changing the mindset that that is the norm.
After the first round that is what we talked about. We talked about having higher expectations and being able to be okay with shooting a lower round. The funny thing is the next day Calle (Nielson) shot four under and Nicole shot three under, which was her lowest competitive round ever. It is not that the course played any different. You have to have the mindset now; with the quality of play that is out there pars are good, yes, but that you have to make a few more birdies to compete.
Question: The Fall Preview will be the sight of the NCAA Championship in the spring, but traditionally you do not see as low of scores at the NCAA Championship as you did at the Fall Preview. Would you like to see them leave the set up as it was?
Lewellen: I think it is always nice to have a venue where you can shoot low. You see it on the Tour; they want to set up courses where you are seeing birdies and not struggling for pars. It was not set up as easy as it may have looked on the scorecards. The greens were very small, but the fairways were wide open. It played to a person that could hit it a long way and that could have some wedges or some shorter shots in. Knowing that now, I may go into it with a different thought process next time around. I like to see the scores low and I think everyone enjoys seeing birdies. They may try and grow the rough up by the time we get there next time around.
Question: What are your thoughts on playing in the Golf Week Challenge in your next outing?
Lewellen: It is a very exciting tournament. We have not done this one before. We will see a lot of teams we have never seen before, a lot of highly ranked teams. It will be interesting to see how they set the course up. It will also be exciting to represent the ACC and not just the University of Virginia. I think the girls are really looking forward to it because it is something different.
Question: What are your expectations for Calle Nielson this year?
Lewellen: Calle will win tournaments. There is no doubt in my mind she will win. In my opinion, she should never be out of the top five. She is one of the best chippers and putters out there. If you combine that with length she has, she can be a top player. She is still working on developing a stronger mental game in some of her aspects. She is fiery out there and she has to control that at some level. It has to be balanced, just enough fire but not too much. She will have some wins and it will be really neat to see how this year turns out for her.
Question: How about your two first years, how are they doing so far?
Lewellen: We have a very, very deep team. I have nine players and in my opinion I could break the team down the middle and have a top-10 team and a top-20 team just by taking two different teams. We are that deep, which makes it a lot harder to coach and have to pick that fourth and fifth player to complement those first three players who are really showing themselves. It is a great thing to have two first year players come into a very deep team. I will put Portland Rosen in the lineup to see how she does. Once she got here, her scores have gotten lower everyday. Her putting and chipping is improving every day. As well as Elizabeth Brightwell, who redshirted last year. I have two players who could really play for a lot of schools nationally and who caliber wise are that good. They will be put in the line up at some point to see how they do.
Depth is a great problem to have. It is hard for a coach because you have to choose a team and you hate to leave someone who is that good, at home sitting on the bench. My team is very good at working hard and pulling for the ones that did travel. It keeps everyone working hard. It is a much harder for the coaches rather than the players.
Question: How were the girl’s summers coming into this season?
Lewellen: Coming into the Golf Week Challenge, the five that were playing were the five that made it to the U.S. Amateur. That is interesting and exciting to see how that team will produce out there. Overall the team looks great. Brittany (Altomare) and Calle are as strong ever and Nicole (Agnello) gets better everyday. We have Lauren (Greenlief), Joy (Kim), Portland, and Elizabeth. Eleana Collins showed what she can do, shooting 1-under durign a round at the Preview. We have a whole set of girls and the hard part is finding who is playing the best at that time, to take to the tournament.