In July 2001 longtime Cougar coach Gary Howard retired, and for the first time in it's 25 year history, someone other than Howard held the reigns of the women's golf program. Former BYU golfer and assistant coach Sue Nyhus was soon named the new head coach. She now begins her head coaching career and inherits a women's golf team stacked with talent and senior leadership.
"I'm very fortunate to have taken over a program with so many talented and mature players," Nyhus said. "It's refreshing to have senior leadership who help train our younger players."
Truly Nyhus has a team with plenty of experience. The Cougars return four out of their top five players from last season plus redshirt junior Jessica Gardner, a regular starter two years ago.
BYU also received the addition of two very talented freshman in Natalie Newren and Margaret Gibby, both with sisters on the BYU team. Newren is fresh off a Utah Amateur title this past summer, while Gibby placed second at the 2001 Arizona high school championships.
"Because we have so many solid players this season it is going to force everyone to step up their play in order to have a chance to compete," Nyhus said. "I think you'll see a lot of our team and individual records broken this year."
BYU may have its most talented and deep team in 16 years. Headlining the returning players for BYU is senior All-American Carrie Summerhays. Summerhays, a two-time Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, is one tournament victory away from becoming the all-time winningest women's golfer in BYU history. Last season she won the the Lady Aztec Invitational and Utah Dixie Classic tournaments to give her six career victories.
"Carrie is an extremely gifted athlete who works hard," Nyhus said. "She's the complete golfer and it's great to have someone of her caliber on this team."
Fellow seniors Lisa Dernick and Adrianne Gibby will also be key figures in the Cougars season. Both earned Academic All-American honors last year and finished second and third on the team in stroke average respectively.
"Lisa (Dernick) has probably the most consistent game on the team," Nyhus said. "She really wants to go out strong her senior year."
Adrianne Gibby, who also serves the University as the Student Athlete Council Co Chair this season, also looks to finish her steady BYU career well.
Following BYU's senior core are redshirt junior Jessica Gardner and sophomores Nicole Newren and Sarah Bridges. Gardner will help add depth and has the ability to shoot low scores for the Cougars this season. Nicole Newren, who led the Cougars at last year's UCLA Bruin Classic, came on strong for BYU at the end of last season. Bridges, who suffered through injuries all last season, looks to be healthy are ready to make an impact on this team.
The last few seasons the Cougars have struggled to consistently shoot four good scores and keep the team total under 300. But with depth and talent at her disposal, Nyhus should be smiling in her first season.
If BYU's first two tournaments of the 2001-2002 season are any indication of this team's potential, then the 2001-02 season. In the Dick McGuire Invitational the Cougars shot it's best three-round total in the tournament's 23 year history (896). The Cougars are also shooting ten strokes less per round early this season compared to last.
If the senior leadership and talented underclassmen can continue to lift this team to improved levels, BYU may be sniffing at a potential conference championship and NCAA Championship berth.