Senior Alanis Sakuma at Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational on April 13, 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Brett Rybak

The Ohio State women’s golf team boarded a plane for Hawaii in March with a slew of events still on the schedule, but when the team returned to Columbus, the season was over. 

The COVID-19 pandemic cut the Ohio State golf season short after playing just seven of its 13 scheduled events. The team was not given a chance to defend its Big Ten Championship title and the uncertainty has permeated into the fall as the team begins to practice together. 

Head coach Therese Hession, who has coached the team for 29 years, said the cancelation of the season in the spring left her “numb” and “stunned” as the reality that the postseason would be lost sunk in.  

“Everything you’re gearing for was building around that,” Hession said. “At least for me as a coach, everything I do is built around the postseason and it was just stunning.”

The stunned sensation was felt by her players as well. Then-junior golfer Alanis Sakuma, a native of Hawaii, said she also felt disbelief. 

“My initial reaction was definitely disappointment,” Sakuma said. “It was a lot of shock too because it was just all of a sudden. There was no warning at all.”

Sakuma, a fourth-year in aviation management, said she remained in Hawaii until the Ohio State aviation school opened back up in the summer. 

Since the cancelation in the spring, the team did very little until practices began Monday. Despite the lack of time together, Hession noted that golf is unique in that players can safely train on their own. 

Hession said the team was set to participate in four events during the fall, but the postponement of the football season spelled doom for golf until 2021. 

“Even though we could play our sport, and I think we could play it in a fashion that would fit the university guidelines, we still have to pay to get there. We still have an entry fee. We still have hotel bills. We still have our travel,” Hessions said. “We don’t make money for the university, for our athletic department, we need their budget.”

Hession, who described the team’s current course of action as her “Plan E” with her other plans being ruined one way or another, said the team is participating in 20-hour training weeks. 

Although the team will be training together, Hession is prioritizing her players getting competitive experiences in local tournaments that are allowing collegiate athletes to partake in. 

“With just the nature of golf, you can spread yourself out so that it’s really like you can play that sport safely,” Hession said. 

In participating in tournaments during the fall, Hession is hoping to prevent her players from going nearly a year since the team’s last competition in the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational March 10-11. 

With the season cut short, Hession said the team was granted another year of eligibility, an option which neither of her two 2019-20 seniors elected to take.

Although she recognizes the upcoming spring will likely be different, Hession is hoping that the student-athletes get a chance to compete again. 

“If we can get out and just compete and have some tournaments, I think that everyone would be really appreciative of that too, but we got to do it in a safe fashion so that nobody is risking something happening,” Hession said. 

Along with the lost competition opportunities, Hession said the last six months have demanded creativity. Emphasizing that life is about being able to adjust, Hession related her mentality to what she knows best: golf. 

“It’s like you made a double bogey on a hole and you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to let all that go, and you’ve got to go to the next hole and tee off and try to do your very best going down that hole,” Hession said.