Photos By Ryan Workman
In a sports world that has been almost entirely dictated by the ebbs and flows of a global pandemic, golf is somewhat of an anomaly.
The game already has regulations put in place for players and spectators to remain safe. For the most part, you are already socially distanced from your playing partner and others while on the course. The mere fact that the game is played outside coupled with that built-in distancing makes it one of the safer sports to play and watch in our world.
Never the less, North Dakota State had the fall half of their golf season canceled because of the pandemic. While the Bison are trying to schedule themselves into a few fall tournaments, it has yet to be seen whether or not NDSU will compete this fall.
This presents an issue, obviously. While the fall slate is important, the final results are used as building blocks and not for a conference championship. These building blocks pave the way for a potential conference championship in the spring. Without fall competition, NDSU has to find other ways to build towards a successful spring.
In a year-round sport like golf, this constant fervor for competition and improvement is vital to the success of players. Sophomore Maddie Herzog’s case is no different in that respect. Regardless of if the Bison compete this fall or not, Herzog says the most important thing is to keep a competitive edge.
The Bison seem to be doing that and remain hungry to play once again.
Herzog discusses the changes in golf throughout the pandemic and the absence of the fall slate.
What has been the timeline for you and the team throughout this pandemic? Golf is a year-round sport, so how have you handled the summer and the fall postponement?
We do still have the opportunity to play in a couple of tournaments this fall. That hasn’t been finalized quite yet with dates and places or anything though. I think all of the coaches in the area are trying to put together tournaments or make something work. Obviously, they would be smaller tournaments with not as many teams. In the summer, we were actually playing pretty much usual golf. It was very normal, but we couldn’t take the pins out or anything like that. Other than that, it was relatively normal. We were playing and practicing with the hope that we could compete.
Golf is a unique sport considering it already has built-in “social distancing” into the gameplay as well as it being played outside. Did anything change as far as logistics for you during summer training and into the fall?
During the summer, it was pretty much the same tournaments as usual. Some tournaments didn’t allow caddies because they want to limit the number of people. There weren’t rakes in the bunkers and you’d see the foam pool noodles in the cups. You also couldn’t show up to your tee time an hour before. They wanted it 30 minutes before to limit the people on the range. Other than that, there was not a whole lot different. Since we’re outside, you can stay distanced, but usually, you hug your playing partner at the end of the round. This summer, we usually did the fist bump.
For the team, the fall is not so much about results, but more about staying sharp ahead of spring tournaments. Without a full fall slate, how do you continue to stay sharp and advance your game?
Conference is in the spring and that is the main goal for us. The fall is more about keeping your edge, keeping your game going and staying competitive I would say. Obviously, a lot can change from October to February, but being able to keep that competition going is big. In North Dakota, you can’t go outside in the winters so we hit in the bubble and we play games in there. That is a good way to keep the competition going within the team too. It will be different not being able to play those four or five tournaments, but I’m sure once spring rolls around we’ll be ready. We’ll be excited to play, that’s for sure.
When you are playing year-round in a sport like golf, how do you remain competitive? How do you continue to keep a competitive edge when golf really never stops?
It’s not a complete individual sport, but you are kind of out there by yourself. You have to grind through it. I am a competitive person, so keeping that competitive edge is not anything challenging. From not playing in any tournaments and that first tournament back you have to remember that it is a tournament and there are rules. You can’t just go and pick your ball up or drop a ball and hit it because you need to count every shot and try your best with every shot. Keeping that in mind is important and it is tough to do.
I’m sure once spring rolls around we’ll be ready. We’ll be excited to play, that’s for sure.
What do you think this pandemic has shown about NDSU athletics in general?
We just want to play. We have dedicated our lives to our sports and we just love to play. You ask 99 percent of the kids out here and they would want to be out there playing. They want to have the opportunity. I live with a couple of volleyball players and they just wish they were playing. It just goes to show that we really love what we do and we want to play. That’s really all it is.