This season, the Carleton Knights Women’s Golf Team had a year for the record books. A MIAC championship, their top five golfers placing in the top five at the MIAC tournament, capped off with a seventh place overall after totaling 1,249 shots during the four-day NCAA DIII tournament at Bay Oaks Country Club in Texas. Women’s Golf now joins Men’s Cross Country (1979-81) as the only Carleton teams to post top-10 team finishes at Nationals for three consecutive years, with a seventh place and sixth place finish, in 2017 and 2018, respectively. It was a season that capped off the careers of Ayumi Sakamoto ’19 and Ziyi Wang ’19, who both dazzled in their Carleton careers. In their final tournament, Wang finished in a tie for seventh overall, and Sakamoto tied for 31st overall.
“I wish we could have given the story-book ending to our graduating seniors, Ayumi and Ziyi, because I think they really deserve it,” teammate and fellow Nationals participant Abby Euyang ’21 said. “But nevertheless, we focused on what we could control, tried our best, and had a grand old time with each other that I will remember forever.”
Their team success did not go unrecognized by the broader Carleton athletic community, as Womens Golf was named Best Women’s Team, with Wang winning Best Women’s Athlete, and Kristin Miyagi ’22 taking home the Women’s Rookie of the Year honors at the 2019 Knight Awards.
For three of the Knights, Wang, Euyang and Miyagi, Nationals was an amazing experience. “It was the most exciting experience to play at nationals,” said Wang. “Our team had so much fun and we all played our best! Every part of it was awesome!”
For Miyagi, her first Nationals experience was something to remember. “I had a great experience at my first nationals,” Miyagi said. “My team and coach were very supportive, and I’m also glad that my family came to watch me. We had fun dressing up at the banquets, eating a variety of delicious cuisines, getting to know other players, and playing games/bowling at Main Event Entertainment.”
While Nationals was a much bigger stage than the team was used to, Euyang thought it made it that more exciting to play in it. “As fun as it is to dominate the MIAC and Midwest region, it is even more fun to play against competitors who really challenge us to perform our best,” Euyang said. “Some of my personal highlights included the first banquet, which all the teams and coaches attend. It was a super great way to kick off the week, see other teams, and celebrate what we had all accomplished to get there.”
As for their performance at Nationals, the Knights believed they did not play their best; but in the end, they were proud because they gave their best effort. “It is easy to look at our scores and conclude that we posted some of our highest scores of the entire season, both as a unit and as individuals,” said Euyang. “Throughout the regular season, our team average hovered around 300 strokes per round, and we did not break 310 for the four days of this tournament, which in itself is pretty disappointing. However, I think we did an amazing job of staying focused and not giving up. I was continually impressed and excited that we remained positive, excited, and supportive of one another.” Miyagi agreed, saying “I wish we could have played better at nationals, but we all had a good time and tried our best.”
Some of the team’s highlights include shooting 293 in the second day of their first tournament of the year, a team record. In addition, following the long winter, during which golfers in Minnesota do not get to practice outdoors, they secured a victory at the Wash U Invite, against many of the nation’s top teams. Historically, the Knights have not had much success at said event, though at 2019’s edition of the Wash U Invite, they defended their number-one national ranking, and their undefeated regular season streak, by taking home the trophy.
Individually, Wang shot a 69 at the Wash U Invite, which was her career low score, and something that she took great pride in. Euyang commented on Wang’s play, saying “witnessing Ziyi reach another level of competition” was amazing. “Something clicked for her this year, allowing her to reach goal after goal, and leading her to decide to go pro. It’s always awesome to see your teammate perform at such a high level, we are all so happy for and proud of her.” Wang plans to join the professional tour when she graduates, and hopes to eventually obtain her LPGA tour card.
As for next season, Miyagi said the team “will continue to work hard and improve our games over the summer. We are also excited to welcome our recruits as they will make a great addition to our team.” Check in next fall as the Knights look to continue their undefeated regular season streak.