Montevallo women’s golf becoming a national power
Published 9:38 am Thursday, March 10, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
MONTEVALLO – The University of Montevallo Lady Falcons’ golf team is currently ranked as the No. 4 women’s golf team in the nation across all Division II programs. Montevallo has competed in six tournaments this season, and has placed no worse than fifth at any one tournament. The Lady Falcons have won the Full Moon Invitational as well as the Columbus State Invitational this spring, and most recently placed second out of 17 teams in the Rollins Invitational in Orlando, Fla., in which they beat Barry University and Rollins College, the current No. 2 and 3 teams in the nation across Division II. The Lady Falcons are having a season for the ages, and are having a blast doing it.
Collegiate golf is not confined to one season of the year, as most other collegiate sports are. Golf has a fall as well as a spring season, with the end of the school year coinciding with the national tournaments. The Lady Falcons came into the spring season carrying the No. 12 national rank in Division II from the fall, and have only trended upward since. Justin Pratt, the current head women’s golf coach at Montevallo, understands the special nature of this current group.
“This is the best team we’ve had,” Pratt said emphatically. “Every year since we took over we’ve gotten a little bit better every year. A few years ago we brought in a few good players, and they’re all juniors now. It’s just been a progression of adding one or two players every year since we got here that’s led us to where we are now.”
The five golfers Montevallo takes to tournaments all are juniors: Elaine Wood, Arin Eddy, Emily Romkey, Kirstie Saltiel and Morgan Natale. Wood leads the team with a 72.69 stroke average, while Eddy is not far behind with a 75.31 average. Romkey, Saltiel and Natale round out the top three, and all have stroke averages within a 77.5-78.6 range.
Romkey, currently with a stroke average of 77.54, came to Montevallo by way of Nova Scotia, Canada. The junior used a third-party recruiter to find the small Alabama school, and has fallen in love with the school and team she has joined. Romkey credits the family atmosphere of the team as part of the reason why the Lady Falcons have been so successful to date.
“I came on a visit and loved it here,” Romkey said. “Montevallo has been amazing. Our team is incredible. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my teammates. We’re all super close and really tight knit. It really helps on the golf course too, because we have that special connection that a lot of teams just don’t have. That helps us perform to the level that we are.”
Wood, the defending Peach Belt Conference Golfer of the Year is also a second-generation golfer at Montevallo, as her father played for the Falcons in the 1980s. Eddy was a First Team All-Peach Belt Conference selection last season, and both were both named Second Team Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-Americans. The two are one of the primary reasons the Lady Falcons are having the spring they are, although the high national ranking has been a bit of an adjustment for them both.
“It has been a little different,” Eddy said with a smile. “Because we used to not get this kind of recognition. Random people have started coming up to us and saying, ‘Hi, you’re on the golf team, congratulations,’ and people used to not know who we were.”
While the two are competitive on the course, neither takes claim as the better golfer, and don’t think about the game in those terms.
“We honestly don’t really think about it like that,” Wood said. “We really just try and shoot the lowest we can every time we go out.”
When looking ahead at the rest of the season, the goal for this team is simple.
“We think nationals is a goal,” Wood stated. “We’d love to make it to nationals, and we think we can get there.”
Pratt understands what makes his team, and especially his two top golfers click. The camaraderie they share, along with the natural talent and sincere drive to get better, is unique and takes a long time to develop within a team, if it ever does at all. The way each member of the group pushes the others while remaining close is special, and Pratt knows it.
“They have a drive to get better,” Pratt said. “In golf you have to have that, you have to have that self-motivation to come out on days when you don’t have practice. We just have a team of hard workers, and have the talent to go with it. Between all the girls on the team, they push each other.”
Montevallo’s next tournament will be the West Alabama Invitational in Philadelphia, Miss., from March 13-15. The Peach Belt Conference Championship is roughly a month away, from April 15-17, and the Lady Falcons are the early frontrunners to take home that title.