Aneka Seumanutafa swinging a golf club

Ohio State woman golfer Aneka Seumanutafa golfing at the White Sands Invitational, which ran from Oct. 28-30. Credit: Ohio State Athletics

As many students try to follow Ohio State health guidelines in order to stay on campus, sophomore Aneka Seumanutafa just wants to stay on the golf course.

Seumanutafa, the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a 2019 Women’s Golf Coaches Association second-team All-American on Ohio State women’s golf team, is dealing with the realities of a fall semester without team events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although practices remain for the golf team, team competition will not resume until January at the earliest, head coach Therese Hession said. 

Hession said the absence of the fall schedule cuts four events from the Buckeyes’ docket, which Seumanutafa said was disappointing.

“I really wanted to play to represent Ohio State and be proud to be an Ohio State athlete,” Seumanutafa said.

Seumanutafa completed her junior and senior year of high school online — she was homeschooled — so the academic transition from in person to online has been easy, she said.  

However, the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the 2020-21 golf season has been much more difficult, she said.   

“It’s kind of hard to not have the season,” Seumanutafa said. “It sucks because we all really wanted to play golf.” 

Seumanutafa said that she has had some concerns for her golf career due to the nature of the coronavirus.

“Being an athlete and being in a long-term sport, it’s kinda scary to be around people,” Seumanutafa said. 

Now, Seumanutafa’s collegiate season is reduced to a modified practice schedule and the possibility of individual events, she said.

Over the summer, Seumanutafa competed in the North & South Women’s Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Woodmont Country Club in her home state of Maryland. She finished ninth and 33rd, respectively, in the tournaments.

With temperature checks, daily rapid COVID-19 testing and face masks while not playing, Seumanutafa said the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship took safety precautions more seriously than the championship in North Carolina, which did not require golfers to wear a mask. 

The members of the Ohio State women’s golf team may be able to compete in some new tournaments as individuals, Seumanutafa said. However, the student-athletes would have to pay for the tournaments on their own.

“You want to be in competition for golf, especially because you want to keep that mojo going,” Seumanutafa said. “If you don’t feel like you’re in that competition, it just kind of brings your golf game down a little bit.”

For Hession, who is in her 30th year of coaching, it is important to keep that competitive spirit alive this fall. The coach said that she would have a flexible practice schedule for those who wished to compete individually. 

“There are some very nice clubs that are providing opportunities for college players to play,” Hession said. “So hopefully they can get in some competition that way, and for some of them, this will even be more competition than what they played in this summer.”

Hession said that the ability to compete locally will provide the players with increased safety, as the golfers will be able to drive their own cars and not have to stay in a hotel. 

Further fueling the competitive energy, the team has been qualifying and having mini-short-game competitions with the men’s golf team in order to keep the players engaged, Hession said.

“Some things might be different than normal, but they can actually feel like they are competing,” said Hession.