After several frustrating seasons that concluded with dismal results, the Idaho State women’s golf team is beginning to see the benefits of the new attitude and mindset that new head coach Dallen Atkins has put into place.
The biggest change has been practices, most of which are held at Juniper Hills Country Club, the same course where Akins is the head-pro.
“Since I’m out here all the time anyway because this is where I work, I’m here and I can see that they are practicing and I can keep up on them,” Atkins said. “They hold me accountable as a coach just as I hold them accountable as a player.”
With practices geared towards situational-golf and managing the course, the team has embraced Atkins devotion towards the team and has since seen a complete change in attitude.
“This is not just hitting balls and rolling putts,” Atkins said on his practices. “We’re working situational shots and course-management. Things that you would see in a tournament atmosphere because that’s what we do on the collegiate level. We play tournament golf.”
In the past, practices haven’t been held to this new standard. Former head coach Kellie Hooper wasn’t always around during practices and a result, the team wasn’t buying in.
“I think they’re seeing a coach now that cares and cares that they play well,” Atkins said. “Their attitudes are better about it, they’re more enthused about it and they want to play good golf.”
Atkins biggest message to his players is the mental side of the game, something he says is 80 percent of the game.
“Don’t worry about why I hit that bad shot and why is this happening, but the what. What am I going to do about it? What can I do to fix this?” he said.
The results have shown, as the Bengals have posted record breaking numbers through their first three tournaments.
During the first-round of the Rose City Collegiate Golf Tournament, the team shot its eighth-best score in school history, during the second-round, the team’s post of 320 was the best mark since 2009 while Kylie Martens shot a career-best 243 for the tournament which is the third highest mark in school history.
“Dallen has helped us so much with our game,” Martens said in a press release. “Our team dynamics are a lot better and he is always there to help anyone with anything.”
The record-breaking tournament could be the first of many for Martens, as Atkins has nothing but praise for his senior-leader.
“Her attitude and her drive to want to do it,” Atkins said. “I think she has kind of had a college experience on the golf team that wasn’t really what she thought it was going to be. Now, in her final year, she’s getting what she always hoped it would be.”
But anytime there’s massive change, there is bound to be times when the team falls back into its old ways.
Hadley Hersh shot a 78 and a 76 the first two days at the Rose City tournament, but shot a 93 when she was paired with a player that Adkins said, “got under her skin.”
“She let it get to her and her scored showed,” he said.
As a former girls’ basketball coach and current golf instructor, Atkins understands both the individual and team aspects that collegiate golf involves.
Unlike professional golf, collegiate golf is a team sport, played in tournaments where the top four out of five scores from the team are taken and added together to make up the team score.
“I teach golf for a living, that is what I do,” Atkins said. “But then I can take my experience from coaching team sports and sprinkle that in as well and help our team become more unified.”
Part of the change in the attitude has been attributed to the change in the team aspect. The team now has team meetings, team dinners and other social events that bring the players closer together.
“Yes, is an individual sport, but we are a team,” Atkins said. “We are going to succeed as a team and we are going to do things as a team. If we have ups and downs, we are going to do it as a team.”