Today I'm turning Wildman's corner over to Portland State junior Kalyn Dodge, who wrote in to give us her account of the Big Sky Conference Championship which Portland State won to earn a trip to the post season.
There's not a much better feeling than knowing, going into a championship, that you can win it, especially if nobody thought that you could. Going into the Big Sky Conference tournament, we knew as a team that we had a shot to top Northern Arizona given our performance in the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic. It was something that our coach reminded us as often as she could: We have the skill to take this title.
Knowing that the only way for us to get to the NCAA West Regionals was to win the Big Sky was more motivation for me than something to be nervous about. We have the skill and the depth on our team to be more consistent than any team in our conference. The Wyoming tournament was also a factor. Being ousted by NAU on the same course that the Conference Tournament was taking place was a little tough to take, but we knew it was still within our reach. Going into practice that next week I knew exactly how it was going to work. We were going to work on things that we thought needed improvement as well as things that Kathleen saw that went wrong. Going into the tournament we felt confident - we knew the course, the greens and our competition.
The first day was hectic, it seemed like it flew by so quickly. We were up and getting ready to meet at the car before 6 a.m. to head over to the course for our team's first tee time at 7:15 (my tee time was at 7:24). Warm-ups went pretty well. I was confident, and even though I wasn't hitting the ball very well, I knew the course and knew that it all comes down to short game out there. Eighteen holes flew by faster than you could imagine and we were sitting behind the 18th green waiting for our remaining players to come in, scanning their faces to see if they were playing well.
There wasn't too much to worry about at this point because it was only the first round. We shot 295 as a team, one shot behind NAU. For me, at that point, it was just another round, after you finish you go work on what needs to be worked on. For me, it was my swing. Something had felt off all day and on course is not the place to tinker with anything. We spent the day with our families and were back in the hotel by 9 p.m. getting ready for bed.
The second day seemed a bit calmer; we all knew that we could play the course well. My tee time was at 8 a.m. exactly, and we were playing with NAU and Sacramento State. We trailed NAU by one and led Sac State by four so we felt like we were in the perfect position. Everything seemed to work on that day, from drives to irons to putting. I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. It sounds weird, but being in the top 3 it feels like everyone is watching you: parents, coaches, other players and their parents, all eyes are on your group, everyone is after you. We played great that round, beating NAU by one, and now tied going into the third and final round.
I can't really explain how we felt that last morning, the most I could tell you is that you truly had to be there. We had all talked about it in the hotel - what it meant, what we had to do, how no one expected this out of us. I teed of first for our team, meaning that I would be the first one done and could watch as everyone else came in to the final hole. As I played, I tried not to think about what it meant, tried to stay in the present. Its one hell of a hard thing to do, and I'm sure any PGA player will tell you the same. Kathleen just told me a few words, "Calm down, breathe, and take it one shot at a time." Easier said then done, but she knows what she's talking about, so I made sure before every shot that I took one deep breath and tried to relax my muscles. When I finished that round, I signed my scorecard and ran from the scoring area back to the 18th green to watch my teammates come in. It was out of this world. Everyone was crowded around the green watching us, college students.
My dad was tracking Golfstat and I was having him check every five seconds to see where we were. When I had finished my round we were trailing them, then five seconds later we were leading them by four. Every player that came in after me signed her scorecard and came right back out. We were sitting up there behind the green doing math in our heads, trying to figure out who would be the throw-out score for the other teams, checking to see if we were leading. Sac State had started to gain on us, and we thought we led NAU by two when one of their girls sank a shot for eagle from the fairway. I just remember thinking, "Crap, it's over," but even with the eagle, we led them by five according to Golfstat. When our last girl came in, we went over to the scoring area, doing more math in our head trying to figure out what was going on.
We had it. We had won, but the scores weren't posted yet and we couldn't celebrate yet. They wrote the scores in and we lost it. I grabbed an orange Gatorade, just the 20 oz. bottle, and started walking over to my coach, but she wouldn't let me. Apparently it isn't like football.
From there it was a whirlwind of pictures, congrats, hugs, trophies and smiles and laughter everywhere. It's hard trying to describe how we felt in that moment. It was almost like it hadn't really sunk in yet, even though we were holding the trophy. I guess the best way to sum it up is that it was an experience I'll remember forever, even if I can't quite put it into words.