By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
It didn’t matter that Concordia freshman Amy Ahlers had just completed her first career collegiate golf meet. For the native of Albion, Neb., an 89 just would not fly.
“I was really disappointed. I’m not going to lie,” Ahlers said. “At the beginning it was so frustrating because during the summer I played so well. I was really hoping I could come into college playing that way. It happens and it’s just the game of golf.”
Ahlers, who led Boone Central High School to three team state championships, expects near perfection every time she hits the course. That’s why her scores of 89, 89 and 87 in her first three meets as a Bulldog felt perplexing. The game had typically come naturally for the former Nebraska Class C all-stater, who had gotten used to success.
“At first it was just a lot of change,” said Ahlers of the adjustment that comes with being a collegiate student-athlete. “It was frustrating because my golf game wasn’t there anymore and I didn’t know where to find it. My timing was off and nothing seemed to be working, but as I started adjusting it got better and it came back slowly.”
Things clicked on Oct. 2 when head coach Brett Muller’s women’s team competed for the final time this fall. Ahlers birdied her first hole to set the tone for her best collegiate performance to date. She ended up carding an 80, placing her in a tie for first on the individual leaderboard at the second GPAC qualifier meet.
Though she finished the fall season with an average of 85.29 in seven rounds, her final outing provided a clearer picture of what Ahlers appears capable of. After placing third over the summer at the Nebraska Girl’s Amateur Championship, expectations grew even larger.
Muller thinks Ahlers may have placed too much pressure upon herself.
“Amy started off the first few tournaments with scores a little bit higher than both her and I expected,” Muller said. “I think a lot of this has to do with how hard she worked this summer. She really wanted to prove how good she could be. That last couple of tournaments she just relaxed and had fun again.”
That effort lifted Ahlers’ spirits and put her in prime position to collect all-conference honors. She sits eighth in the conference after two GPAC meets with two more to come in the spring (top 10 receive all-conference recognition). She vaulted all the way from 22nd after GPAC Qualifier No. 1 into the top 10 to close the fall.
“It felt really good. I had no idea,” Ahlers said of the Oct. 2 finish. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. I kind of messed up the last hole. I should have come in in the 70s and I wanted that really bad, but I was really excited with it overall. I’m excited that things kind of started turning around.”
That date could be looked back one day as a turning point in her collegiate career – the time where she triumphed over adversity and regained the form that made her such a prized recruit coming out of Boone Central.
The turnaround hardly came as a surprise for Muller, who knew one of the reasons for her high school success was her ability to put behind a negative outcome.
Kick her to the ground? She’ll get right back up. A double bogey? She’ll birdie the next hole.
“The biggest strength to Amy’s game is her mental toughness,” Muller said. “She always wants the team to do well. She knows for the team to do well we need her focused on every shot. She refuses to let a bad shot or bad hole affect her entire round.”
Those qualities were evident as Muller watched Ahlers soar to great heights on the Nebraska prep scene. Naturally, there was plenty of competition for the highly-sought after star.
GPAC women’s golf heavyweight Dakota Wesleyan came hard after her. It would come down to the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Ahlers admitted the choice was not easy.
“It was a really tough decision,” Ahlers said. “I’m not good at making decisions anyway. It was not easy. I looked at Dakota Wesleyan really hard. I ended up choosing where I felt like I fit in best and what program would fit me. I’m really happy with my decision and I don’t regret anything.”
Ahlers credits her parents, Terry and Nancy, for her growth in the sport of golf. She says their patience and encouragement to attend a golf camp in South Carolina after eighth grade made a big difference.
Off the course, Ahlers has bonded with her mother through similar hobbies. Ahlers has cataloged her golf success through scrapbooking – something she and Nancy often do together.
“As I was growing up, my mom and I always spent a lot of time in our craft room together,” Ahlers said. “It was always so much fun. Through my high school years I had a lot of golf articles from newspapers and stuff so I would cut those out and scrapbook those to make sure I could keep all those memories.”
If Ahlers’ latest outing is any indication, she will need to make plenty more room in the scrapbook. The best is surely yet to come for the elementary education major with a passion for working with kids.
“I expect Amy to continue to move up in the GPAC standings,” Muller said. “She is better than her fall average. I believe Amy’s best golf is ahead of her. Don’t be surprised to see some scores in the 70s from her (this spring).”
The right mental approach might be all Ahlers needs to make that happen.
“I think I just have to go out and play my game and be confident in what I know I can do,” Ahlers said. “I think I can do it by not worrying about what everyone else is doing and not trying to compete with them and just playing my own game. I think I’ll be all right.”