October 24, 2003
It must be fun to be part of history.
Reinie Vugrinec and her teammates on the Old Dominion University women’s golf team are experiencing that sensation this fall, and from the looks of it are enjoying it immensely.
This is the first season of the first-ever women’s golf team for the Virginia school, and the four players are well aware of the significance of that fact.
“We set a school record every time we lower our team score,” said Vugrinec. “It’s exciting, and a good opportunity.”
The Lady Monarchs play an NCAA Division I schedule in the fall and spring, which will take them over much of the Mid-Atlantic region, from South Carolina to New Jersey.
We met recently at the Tutte Benne restaurant in Midway. The team was being hosted by Vugrinec’s parents, Mark and Barbara, on the way to a match at Rutgers University.
The pleasant young women acted like they’ve known each other for years.
Vugrinec graduated from Cape Henlopen in 2001, where she lettered in golf for the Vikings. She earned a golf scholarship to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, but the school eliminated its men’s and women’s golf teams before her first semester. After completing her first year there, the chemistry major was recruited for Old Dominion by Coach Pat Kotten, who also came to the Virginia school from the defunct UMBC program.
Kotten’s UMBC teams had a lot of success, including first-place NEC conference finishes for the men’s squad and a third-place finish for the women in only their fourth year of competition.
Kotten was extremely pleased to be able to remain in coaching. “I’m happy to be at ODU. The administration is really supportive,” Kotten said. “And if you’re a girl playing high school golf, there are increasing opportunities to play golf at the college level.”
Two of the ODU players enjoy far better golfing weather in the Tidewater Region than they could expect at home this time of year.
Erica Bryk lives in Atikokan, Ontario, a thirty-hour drive from Norfolk. “It’s a real short golf season up there,” she smiled. The freshman competed in the Manitoba Junior Championships, and also played in Canadian national events. The physical education major has played golf since she was four years old.
In contrast, Ashley Davis has only played golf for a very short time, but the former ski racer from Toronto has used her natural athleticism to quickly improve her game. She played last year for Tennessee State, and this summer transferred to ODU. In the tournament played just before the Rutgers event, her scores were a very respectable 81-74-81-236 total.
“My dad is a really good golfer. He played for Ohio State, and I’ve caddied for him for a long time. I picked up some of the game along the way, and of course, Dad’s been a big help,” Davis said. She’s majoring in communications, and wants to work in sports broadcasting.
Jennifer Noble also transferred to ODU to be part of the new team, from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. A native of Virginia Beach, Noble is also majoring in communications, but is aiming at an eventual career in women’s golf. The former soccer player also played in the Virginia Women’s Amateur.
Vugrinec said that the ODU team’s conditioning schedule is one of the big differences between her playing days at Cape and now, but she’s not complaining. “I’ve added thirty more yards on my drives. I’m putting better, too,” she grinned.
Kotten noted the commitment his players must bring to the sport at this level. “The workout regimen is really critical. They’re playing 54-hole events, with 36 holes on the first day and 18 the second, with a practice round the day before the tournament. They’ll be doing strength and conditioning three days per week between the two playing seasons, and it’ll really help.
His pride in ODU’s first women’s golf team was also evident: “They’re a great group of young women. I’m proud to be coaching them.”