By Dylan Lux
The Youngstown State University women’s golf team started its 2023 campaign off strong with a win at its first match of the year during the YSU Kickoff at Mill Creek Golf Course.
The team hit the links for the first time this season Sept. 2 in Boardman, facing off against five opponents, including Horizon League opponent Northern Kentucky University.
Women’s golf head coach Nate Miklos said he lets the players finely tune their games and find out what they’ll need to improve on for an upcoming campaign.
“All the players are really at home working on their game,” Miklos said. “Relying on them to do what they need to, to get ready for the season.”
YSU took the opening tournament by a wide margin, beating out second place NKU by 26 strokes. The team finished one stroke under par for the tournament.
As for individual Penguin performances, fifth-year senior Danae Rugola took home the best overall finish in the YSU Kickoff, with a 4-under-par 68.
Rugola wasn’t the only ‘Guin with an impressive performance, as six Penguins featured in the top 10. Senior Madie Smithco finished right behind Rugola in second place with a score of 72, making her even for the tournament.
Miklos said Smithco’s performance was inspiring and one of the best he’s seen so far in his coaching career.
“Her performance was … unbelievable at the tournaments,” Miklos said. “The way she finished and closed out that final round was probably one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen in my coaching career.”
Other top 10 finishers for the Penguins included Neeranuch Prajunpanich, who finished tied for third; sophomore Adena Rugola, who ended the tournament in fifth place; sophomore Chaela Barnett, who finished in sixth place; and junior Lizzie Saur and senior Titita Loudtragulngam both finished tied for seventh.
Miklos added there are many athletes on the team that can post great scores and help the team succeed.
“There’s always gonna be at least one or a couple of our players that can go out there and post a really low number and help carry the team that week,” Miklos said.
In its most recent competition, the team traveled to central Pennsylvania to take part in the Nittany Lion Invitational, hosted by The Pennsylvania State University.
Smithco finished first overall in the tournament through three rounds, with a final score of 210. She had a score of six under par to end the tournament.
Smithco said she enjoys the competition of the bigger schools.
“It’s really fun, to play [some of] the best competition,” Smithco said. “We beat Penn State at their home course … [It] feels great. It’s a good start to the season.
Saur finished in the top 10 at the invitational, ending the tournament tied for ninth place with a 6-over-par 222.
Other notable Penguin finishes from the invitational include Prajunpanich, who finished 25th for YSU, with a final score of 227.
Barnett finished 37th for the ‘Guins and tallied a score of 232. Loudtragulngam ended the tournament with a 236, which tied her for 42nd, while Adena Rugola wrapped up the Penguins in the top 50 with a score of 240, and finished tied for 48th.