Women’s golf season defined by new faces

Pilar Lewis Sports Reporter

After having last spring’s season cut short because of COVID-19 and losing two key players, the Kent State women’s golf team is coming back as a different team.

Karoline Stormo and Pimnipa Panthong, both of whom ranked in the top 15 in the country while at Kent, graduated from a team that had finished fifth in the country in 2017 and 2018 and 17th in 2019. The 2020 season was ended by the initial spread of COVID-19.

Stormo is currently working to qualify for the LPGA tour. Panthong transferred to the University of South Carolina, where she is on the team as a graduate student.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces compared to last spring,” coach Lisa Strom said. “I’ve really been trying to be intentional with not comparing them with last year’s team. We have the skill set and the talent level to compete for a national championship again.” 

The Flashes opened their season Sunday at the UCF Challenge in Orlando, Florida. After one day Kent State is in second place and 12 under par, three strokes behind the University of Arkansas. Emily Price, a junior transfer from South Carolina, leads Kent State and the tournament with a seven-under-par 65.

Strom is coaching a team with four freshmen and sophomores among its eight players, but she has focused on building team chemistry and a winning culture.

“We’ve always got our eyes set on a national championship,” Strom said. “That standard of excellence in our golf program has been long established.” 

Here’s how Strom ran down this weekend’s lineup:

Sophomore Caley McGinty ranked No. 34 in the country last year. She was an All-American honorable mention with the program’s second-best scoring average of 70.86.

“Caley did a tremendous job for us this fall, coming back, working hard and taking advantage of the great facility and everything we have to offer” Strom said.

Chloe Salort, a senior from Ermont, France, was an All-Mac first teamer her sophomore year, finishing in the top 20 in four tournaments throughout the season.

“She has been a leader coming back. She’s been more vocal as far as saying this is what we do here if a new player isn’t sure what’s going on,” Strom said.

Price, who won Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, brings a lot of experience to the team.

“I’ve seen her level up her intensity at practice,” Strom said. “For me, that shows me what she’s all about.”

Marissa Kirkwood enters her fifth year on the team as a graduate student. She had a career best scoring average of 73.92 her junior season. 

“Her coming back was huge for the experience factor on our team,” Strom said. The veteran side of her helps trust her on the golf course to make good decisions.”

Another transfer student, Valentina Albertaza, who transferred from Nova Southeastern University and was the Division II Women’s Golf Coaching Association Freshman of the Year, holds a promising spot in the lineup as well.

Strom said the team is off to a great start. She expects some nerves among the players because they did not have a competitive environment in the fall.   

“I’ve tried to remind them that we don’t have to peak in January and February,” Strom said. “We’re gearing up towards the MAC, regional and national championships.”

 Pilar Lewis is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected].