BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s golf team will kick off its fall season this weekend at the Bucknell Invitational in Lewisburg, Pa. Head coach Rob Shutte enters his second season with a young but talented team that is coming off a strong spring campaign. This weekend’s tournament, which was moved to Sunday-Monday due to weather, is the first of five the Mountain Hawks will compete in this fall.
“The nice thing about this year is that we’ve been able to hit the ground running,” Shutte explained. “We’ve been limited a bit because of the weather, but our workouts have been great, our communication has been outstanding. It has helped us focus on instruction and determining what’s going to help us win tournaments.”
Shutte led the Mountain Hawks to top five finishes in four of the eight tournaments the team played in last year, highlighted by a win at the Sunshine Spring Classic in Florida in March.
“The biggest thing coming off that win was a change in mindset,” Shutte said. “Our players showed up at our next three spring tournaments with a quiet swagger. Winning that tournament made our team feel like we belonged as opposed to being just another team in a tournament.”
The 2011-12 Lehigh roster does not feature any seniors, so Shutte will look to an experienced group of juniors, Chelsea Michalek, Natalie Lansing and Ginette Schapira to lead the way this season. Michalek recorded several top-ten finishes last year, while Schapira has been credited a steadying influence on the course for the Brown and White.
“I was interested to see how Chelsea would emerge as a leader,” Shutte said. “She hit four-under at one point at Penn State last year. She played in every tournament. I knew she could be play, but wanted to see how she’d emerge as a leader. Ginette is just very consistent. She has played in a lot of international tournaments. She’s more of a quiet leader but I love the way she practices and carries herself.
Shutte added, “Our three juniors have been put in a leadership role quickly. They all bring different qualities, but it will be fun to see them become leaders right in front of your eyes as this program becomes their program.”
The sophomore class is led by Crystal Lee, who was the program’s athlete of the year last season. Lee finished second at the Sunshine Spring Classic for Lehigh’s top individual finish last year. Hannah Kim, Ava Panteli and newcomer Elizabeth Sander complete Lehigh’s sophomore class.
The Mountain Hawks have also added three freshmen, who Shutte feels can make an immediate impact.
“Kelly Moylan is a bit of a gunslinger, and I mean that in a good way,” Shutte said. “She’s fearless on the course. She has great ball striking. She attacks pins and has a great attitude. Melanie Dickens is like Peyton Manning on the golf course. She has a very meticulous and methodical approach to her game. Alyssa Scheyd has a ton of upside. She hits towering irons and gets good length. She has a lot of upside if she develops all the aspects of her game.
Shutte continued, “There’s a certain we way we like to do things around here. We focus on three things. Academics is one, and we had our second highest team GPA last semester which is great. Second is our attitude and our professionalism and the way we carry ourselves. The last part is competing and knowing what being a part of Lehigh and Lehigh women’s golf consists of.”
In the fall, Lehigh will be tested with tournaments on four consecutive weekends. This weekend’s trip to Bucknell will be followed by tournaments at Yale next weekend, Princeton September 24-25 and Penn State September 30-October 2. After a one-year hiatus, Lehigh will host an event at Saucon Valley Country Club, when the Mountain Hawks host the seven-team Lehigh Invitational October 22-23.
“The schedule is jam packed, but one of the best you could ask for in the northeast,” Shutte explained. “We will play in four fantastic, well-run tournaments in four weeks. We couldn’t set it up better. I’m looking forward to the Lehigh Invitational because as a PGA pro I love hosting, and showing off all aspects of our golf program. The professionalism, the facility and all the small touches and it will be great to be at home where our tournament really feels like and becomes a part of the college scene.”
Action for the Mountain Hawks at the Bucknell Invitational begins with 36 holes on Sunday, with the final 18 holes to be played Monday morning. Last year Lehigh placed fourth in the 18-team field, with Michalek and Emily Endres ’11 tying for seventh place overall.