Minium: ODU's Women's Golf, one of the University's Most Successful Athletic Teams, Looking Forward to “Home” Tournament
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
Old Dominion University has played women’s golf since 2003, and lately, the Monarchs have been playing it pretty well. ODU won the Conference USA title two years ago and has gone to the past two NCAA tournaments.
Few ODU teams can claim that kind of success. Yet in their first 15 seasons, they never hosted a “home” match.
That changes Friday, when the Monarchs host the three-day Princess Anne Invitational at Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach.
I haven’t written a lot about college golf, so when I talked to ODU women’s coach Mallory Hetzel, I had a lot to learn. The former Georgia All-American, who was hired away from Western Carolina two years ago, was patient as she explained the basics of how women’s golf works.
ODU women's golf coach Mallory Hetzel.
Teams only play in tournaments, and for whatever reason, the ODU women have always gone on the road to play.
“I thought that was kind of a void in our schedule,” she said. “We have some great golf courses around here and should showcase them.
“It’s kind of strange to play in a sport where you are always away. This gives our players a chance to play in front of their friends and classmates, alums and donors.”
The Princess Anne County Club is about a 30-minute drive from ODU’s campus, but I can’t think of a better setting for a tournament. My dad worked at the club, so I often went there to see him as a kid.
The course is well laid out, immaculately groomed and just steps from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The setup is perfect for all 12 teams that will compete. All of them, including ODU, will stay in Oceanfront rooms at the Sheraton Hotel, and they’ll all get some beach time.
The tournament will tee off each morning at 8 and should wrap up between 2 and 3 p.m.
Hours at the Oceanfront without the hassle of summer tourists? It doesn’t get much better than that.
ODU attracted a decent field, including Maryland, Princeton and Xavier. But Hetzel said “it will pale in comparison to the teams we’re going to get in future years.
“By the time we put this tournament together, most of the schools we hit on were already scheduled out. The teams that have reached out to us for next year are name-brand, Power 5 schools.”
ODU’s men’s and women’s teams are headquartered at Lamberts Point Golf Course, a nine-hole venue run by the city of Norfolk on the far northwest end of campus. But even when they practice, the Monarchs usually hit the road to other courses in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.
Lamberts Point is nice, but with nine holes and narrow fairways, isn’t a course you want to practice at day in and day out.
“We call pros and have to convince them to let us come out and use their facilities,” Hetzel said.
And that’s why the Princess Anne Country Club is hosting this tournament. Its pro, Matt Liebler, has never said no to ODU.
“He’s been so good to deal with,” Hetzel said. “Matt will allow us to come out there and play and use his golf carts. Whatever we need, he tries to help us. When we decided we wanted to do this, that was the only course where we wanted to go.”
Liebler said he was willing to host the tournament, but only if it will be “a five-star event.”
“We’ve got a lot of volunteers working,” Hetzel said. “We’re going to have hole-by-hole scores, which is something you only see in the NCAA tournament.
“There will be a lot of nice, personal touches that will make it memorable for the teams that are coming.”
I asked Hetzel if the Monarchs are going to be good this year. She smiled and said, “We’re always good.”
Certainly freshman Jana Melichova is good. She’s from the Czech Republic. She shot back-to-back bogey-free rounds in the Golfweek Program Challenge in South Carolina, with scores of 69-66-70 over three days. She’s only been in college about two months but already owns the lowest 18-, 36- and 54-hole rounds in ODU history.
She helped the team break the school record of 840 for 54 holes, which portends well for this season.
ODU lost two of its best players to graduation, but still has seniors Sana Tufail, Charlotte De Corte and Abigail Portyrata. Sophomore Noemie Sudron rounds out the roster.
Hetzel said she hopes the tournament becomes a yearly event. Regardless, her players are looking forward to their first “home” match.
“That’s all they’ve been talking about,” she said. “It’s expected that all athletes go to the games of other teams. We should support teams such a soccer, football and field hockey and our players do.
“I know our players are looking forward to this in a big way.”