By Artoor Minas

While the student body witnesses a major growth in the UC Santa Cruz sports program, few students have observed the impressive progress of the Women’s Golf team.

The team, the only formal golf organization on campus, is a collection of student-athletes unlike any other sports program on campus—but they have gone largely unnoticed despite remarkable success.

The team, established in 2002, had struggled in its inaugural season against national competition. But with the addition of several talented rookies, including Meghan and Stephanie Bishop, the Slugs laid a foundation for success during the team’s sophomore season.

“They held it up; we were weak until Meghan and Stephanie came in,” Head Coach Paulette Pera said. “They have become the backbone of the team ever since, they are an integral part of team growth.”

The Women’s Golf team is not in an established conference, it is one of the few independent golf teams competing nationally. This makes it considerably more difficult for the Slugs to advance to nationals, because teams that win their respective conferences receive automatic bids into the playoffs. Without a conference, the Slugs can only be handpicked to compete in nationals based on records and collective scoring averages.

But according to Pera, politics are involved as well. “Eventually, there will be more golf teams, but right now we are independent,” she said.

Lacking a recognized conference, the club competes in most of their tournaments out of state, making it especially difficult and distinct from the other sports programs on campus. While other Slug sports require student travel throughout California, Women’s Golf travels as far as Texas to represent the growing UCSC golf team. Despite fierce dedication, the combination of long-distance travel and a full schedule of classes can make being a part of the team stressful.

“It’s sometimes difficult to play in tournaments that are so far away,” senior Meghan Bishop said. “Other conference teams can travel one to two hours for tournaments, while we travel great distances to play.”

Nevertheless, the Division III Slugs are currently ranked an impressive 28th out of 101 golf teams in the nation, according to Pera. This standing shows that the squad is still in contention for nationals, pending the Slugs’ final tournament, located in Amherst, MA. The tournament begins on April 21 and goes through the 22nd.

The Women’s Golf team has demonstrated immense dedication for a UCSC program that is in its infancy stage, yet has grown fast due to the leadership of seniors such as the Bishop sisters.

The combination of growth and success has been illustrated by the devotion of a golf program that didn’t exist six years ago. Despite their success, however, the young team firmly believes that there is room to grow.

“We could do a lot better,” Meghan Bishop said. “We know we have the talent to succeed.”

The developing of the Women’s Golf team has further exemplified the blossoming the UCSC sports department, giving more opportunities for student-athletes to engage in.

“Golf has always been a big part of my life and I am really glad I got the chance to play in college,” Stephanie Bishop said. “Being on the golf team really enhanced my experience at UCSC through my great teammates and being able to represent UCSC playing a sport I love.”