Talent can take you a long way, but there are other intangibles that have helped the South Carolina women’s golf team to a top-five national ranking and 23rd consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Kalen AndersonThe roster of six student-athletes from five different countries has four newcomers this year, including two freshmen, and the harmony and team chemistry that has been built is another key ingredient to the team’s success. .
“It’s important,” said Anderson, whose team is ranked No. 3 nationally ahead of next week’s NCAA Regional Championship in Tallahassee, Fla. “That’s the culture we have. Everyone has the same goals. We all come from a lot of different places and have different backgrounds, but everyone has the same goals, values and principles. Everyone wants to work hard, get by and win championships. We’re all learning from each other and how we do things differently. We’re having a good time.
“We want to work hard and go all the way, but at the same time we have fun competing, and that’s been a really important part of this year. It started from the very first at the Annika (intercollegiate tournament) that we “We have a good time in competition. We have a good time in training. We try to keep that element of enjoying the game and having fun.
With graduate student Tai Anaudit (Thailand), junior Mathilde Claisse (France), first year Hannah darling (Scotland), junior Justine Fournand (France), second year Paula Kirner (Germany), and freshman Louise Rydqvist (Sweden), the Gamecocks have created a whole melting pot.
“We all come from a different part of the world and we all come here, learning about a new culture and learning about each other’s culture,” Claisse said. “It’s a pretty good mix, and we’ve created our own culture and identity as a team. We really have a lot of fun here. We’re all different. Some of us have more energy than others. . It gives us a good balance.”
“We couldn’t be stronger with the quality of our bonds,” Darling said. “It’s funny how six people can come together and have such great chemistry. We have a lot of fun together. We’re always laughing and joking. When we’re on the road, you can really see how great we are. When we’re on the course, we wave to each other and try to get our teammates excited.”
“It was fun and we hang out a lot,” Anudit said. “We bonded a lot as a team, had dinner or lunch at Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center). We talked a lot. On the golf course, you can tell if your teammates are playing well by their body language.” tries to lift up through our body language. At the end of the green, we greet each other and we try to give ourselves the energy to continue to fight. The coaches helped us a lot, especially mentally.”
“I’ve learned a lot from my teammates, especially in match play. They’re all from Europe, and they play a lot of match play in Europe. I’m from Thailand in Asia, and we play a lot of stroke play. The mentality is different. The way you act on the golf course is different. I learned a lot of useful stuff from them.”
“We are a family. The coaches not only helped me on the golf course, but they made me grow as a human being. That is something I am very grateful for.”
– Mathilde Claisse
After being ranked No. 1 nationally for much of last season, the Anderson Gamecocks earned three senior diplomas last year and also saw second-year All-American Pauline Roussin-Bouchard turning professional early, which earned him the LPGA Tour. While it would have been easy to call this season a rebuilding year, these Gamecocks have settled in well, on and off the course, and won a school-record five tournaments along the way.
“There were a lot of unknowns with two transfers and two freshmen,” Anderson said. “Obviously we knew we had some firepower, but they did a good job of integrating. They’re a very coachable team. I like the culture and the dynamics of this team.
“I’m really proud of how the freshmen have progressed. Towards the end, they were really our two weak stroke averages. Tilly (Claisse) provided us with solid leadership, and Tai (Anudit) and Juju (Fournand) have been excellent for us. From top to bottom, we have been very deep.”
Finding success on and off the golf course isn’t always easy, and there are challenges and benefits to having such a diverse team because they share so much in common, no matter where they come from.
“Being away from my family is a challenge, but the chemistry here is so good and helps all of us with this part,” Claisse said. “We are a family. The coaches not only helped me on the golf course, but they made me grow as a human being. That is something I am very grateful for.”
“Coach Kalen really helped us a lot,” Darling said. “(Assistant Coach) Mike (Roters) has been great too. They work really well together. With my teammates, we had a lot of fun together. When we go out, we never really talk about our goals with golf. Our goal is always have fun and go through the process. I always want to be the best teammate possible for each of them and try to help them when I can.
“They’re a long way from home,” Anderson said. “I love all cultures and I bring them together. There is a lot to learn from different people and different places in the world. You have different religions and different foods. You bring together a lot of people from different backgrounds. It has been interesting. dynamic to coach. It’s hard to find food they like when they get here, but they find themselves there and fit in. They’re all sensitive to that. I think it’s good that they all come from different places because they understand each other that way. They understand what each other is going through, so that was helpful.”
Speaking of food, it’s one thing that can bring the team together.
“We actually like to cook,” Claisse said. “Once in a while, we’ll cook for others, and we’ll cook a local specialty. I’ll make pancakes and any kind of cakes because French pastries are pretty cool! Tai made curry, and that was very spicy. Paula made strudel. It’s about sharing.
“Tilly made curry, and it was so good!” Anaudit said. “Hannah made chocolate cake. It was fun. I made dumplings.”
“I really like to cook, but I wouldn’t call it typical Scottish food,” Darling said. “I made spaghetti bolognese. I didn’t make haggis. It’s a type of food where you can’t just make it. You just have to get it. I don’t see a lot of haggis here.”
Under Anderson, the Gamecocks have won five NCAA regional titles (2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017) and qualified for the NCAA championships nine times over the past 11 seasons.
South Carolina women’s golf always has high expectations, and the 2022 Gamecocks are no different.
“We just want to have fun and enjoy the experience,” Darling said. “If we play like every other tournament, everything will be fine.”