by Beth Moller
When junior Mac Saby was just 8 years old, his dad taught him how to golf. “I liked the individual aspect of golf, and it looked like fun,” Saby explained. By the time he started high school, he decided to quit playing his other sport, baseball, to focus on solely on golf.
At the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Championship held Oct. 6-8, all his years of hard work on the course paid off as Saby led the way for the men’s golf team’s first-place finish. Saby was also the medalist, placing first, while teammate Caleb Johnson finished second. Saby shot a 67 on the final day of competition, which set a school record for a single round of golf.
Head Men’s and Women’s Golf Coach Billy Aune said, “The men had last won [a conference title] in 2003 or 2004, so it was a drought until this year. The men were able to play well over those three days and finish on top.”
“I was very proud of their consistency and am excited for the futures of many of them as they are underclassmen,” Aune added. “Not having won any titles during the year it was fun to see them get it done, and I am very happy for them.”
The previous conference titles came prior to Northwestern joining the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.
Saby said, “It was the first time for the school to win the UMAC Championship, and we won it for Coach Aune. Winning a three-day tournament was awesome. Over the course of the tournament, consistency was key.”
Saby displayed that consistency by shooting a 221 over the three days of the tournament. The team finished with a score of 925: 35 strokes ahead of their closest competitor in the 9-team competition.
The women’s golf team finished fourth at the UMAC Championship, shooting a three-day total of 1241 with Shelby Eden finishing sixth and earning All-UMAC honors. Eden carded a score of 284.
“It is a great honor to be named to the all-UMAC team,” Eden said. “I missed it by a couple of strokes last year, so I was happy I could represent Northwestern this year at the conference tournament. It was definitely a goal of mine all season. I think if all the girls keep improving, we will have a couple more all-conference players next year.”
Eden started golfing when she was 12 by attending a summer league for kids. At the summer league she won a “came to play” award for putting forth a good effort and taking the sport seriously.
She said, “I never really considered playing in college because I didn’t play in high school, but a former player from the Northwestern men’s team encouraged me to play my junior year, and I’m so thankful I got to play.”
For both Saby and Eden, family members have played important roles in their golf journeys. Saby’s sister played golf for Northwestern, and his dad encouraged him in the game.
Saby said, “My dad taught me the game and showed me the ropes. He bought me my first set of clubs.”
Eden said, “My step-dad, Cory, is my biggest role model in golf. He comes to as many meets as he can, takes me golfing in the summers, and is always there to talk through my round hole-by-hole when I’m done.”
In addition to their supportive families, Saby and Eden are thankful for their coach and teammates. The men’s team did not win any tournaments early in the season but have grown as a team under the leadership of Aune.
“Coach Aune has been a spiritual leader to me. He has led me closer to God and shown me how to be a leader,” Saby explained.
Eden said, “My coaches and teammates are so supportive of me and my game. They are so awesome, and we have great team chemistry.”
As the men’s team looks ahead to the national tournament in May, they will continue practicing their swings indoors at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. Since golf is a split season, the women will prepare for spring as well.
Aune said, “We have an indoor facility we use. It has a simulator and a practice green. We will work on practicing swings, muscle memory, rhythm and tempo. When the course closes for the season, we will use the indoor facility once a week and the golfers are lifting weights on their own as well.”
Eden said, “We get a chance to play twice a year, which is really fun. I’m definitely looking forward to playing again in the spring. Hopefully the snow will melt early!”
As the teams look forward to spring, they will start playing after spring break and have several meets planned.
“We will have two events mid- to late April,” Aune said. “Since the men advanced to the national tournament in May, they will also play in one to two larger invites to prepare for the 41-team field at the national tournament.”