April 28, 2004

A Golfer's Gift

April 28, 2004

With a gift only a golfer can give herself, freshman Paige Wilson recently carded her first-ever eagle on her 19th birthday.

Wilson, a freshman from Winnetka, Ill, a Chicago suburb, was participating in her first West Coast Conference Championship on April 12. Held this year at the Riverbed Golf Club in Madera, teams play 36 holes on the first day of action.

Although Wilson scored her feat on the fifth hole, she was playing her 32nd hold of the day.

"Although not reflected in my score, I had been playing better in the first round that morning," she described. "The second round was more of a struggle; I was all over the place, so I had been trying different things."

Looking at par-4, 394-yard layout, Wilson played a driver-5 iron and knocked it in from about 145 yards.

Her drive was just in the rough on the left. Wilson said when she set up to her second shot, she was determined and to hit a good shot.

That she did.

"The fact that it went in made that eagle that much more fulfilling."

Despite a slight case of homesickness on her birthday, Wilson was not alone. Her father flew in for the tournament and was at the fifth hole green to experience his daughter's success firsthand.

"He was beaming," Wilson recalled. "He's always been my number one fan, so for him to be there with me to experience this just made my day extra special.

"It also really helped to turn my day around," she continued. "I was tired, but the eagle really brought me mentally back into the game to finish strong."

Carding a 78 to close the day, Wilson's rounds were integral in helping the Broncos place third at the tournament. In the individual competition, she finished 22nd.

"The eagle she carded at conference is a testament to her ability, and although she will be humble about it, it was a skillful event," head coach Polly Schulze said. "It's exciting when one member of the team breaks out with something we haven't done before because it urges the other players on to do great things as well."

The team celebrated Wilson's birthday that evening at dinner. Although they had tried to sing to her at breakfast, Wilson said she shied away from the attention, as she had enough to take in as a freshman experiencing her first WCC tournament and she didn't want to distract the team.

Looking back on her accomplishment, Wilson saw the eagle as a representation of her entire season.

"That day was a struggle, just as this season has been at times, adjusting to college; I couldn't find my game. But then certain things like this happen that make it all worthwhile. This year has been an awesome experience.

"I still feel as if I'm trying to take it all in," she added. "The players that have been here a few years have been working very hard to get to where the program is now. I joined that challenge this year and they made it look so easy. We've brought the program to the edge and are ready to jump off for that next level, to take that next big step and cross the line. I feel very fortunate to be a part of that. I want to be able to help my teammates any way I can. I'm thoroughly excited to be here."

"I've seen Paige grow so much as a competitor this past year," Schulze added. "I'm very excited about her future with this team and anxious to see what she brings to the table next year. She's a delight and a real team player."