The Montana State golf team traveled to Phoenix, Arizona last week, competing in their first tournament of the spring season.

The appearance at the Grand Canyon Invitational was the team’s first competition since March 2020, almost a year ago. Any athlete can attest to the difficulty of competing after an extended hiatus and the adjustment to tournament play proved challenging for MSU’s golfers.

In addition to a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, playing collegiate golf in Montana presents unique obstacles to athletes. Practicing exclusively indoors during frigid Bozeman winters substantially limits the diversity of shots that golfers can work on. TheExponent spoke with Bobcat golfers Sofia Rodriguez Todd and Annika Danenhauer about the difficulty of transitioning to tournament play after a long winter of indoor practice.

Danenhauer and Rodriguez Todd concurred that the first tournament of spring constitutes a rocky transition, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We love Cat Golf,” Rodriguez Todd said. “We love being in Montana.” Danenhauer agreed. Her smile was practically audible through the phone as she said, “It’s still so much fun.”

The indoor facility at MSU is perfectly sufficient for practicing drives, putts and approach shots from the fairway, but awkward shots and sticky situations are difficult to replicate without an outdoor course. “When you hit a good shot on the golf course, then you’re going to be putting,” Rodriguez Todd said. “But you don’t hit every green.”

For Rodriguez Todd, the snow-covered golf courses and indoor practices of fall and winter allow time to focus on technique. The long hours spent hitting into a simulator and putting on an artificial green put her stroke and stance under a microscope, spurring small tweaks and fixes. Come spring, she’s ready to showcase her hard work. “My mindset is much more competitive in the spring just because I feel like I’ve done all my homework in the fall,” she said.

With three rounds of competitive golf under their belt, Rodriguez Todd and Danenhauer look forward to their next chance to play on grass. “Even playing this one tournament—from one round to the next, from one day to the next, there’s so much improvement,” Danenhauer said.

The golf team’s season continues Monday, April 5, and Tuesday, April 6, when they head back to Arizona for the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic.