Amanda Brown's not looking for any sympathy.
The first-year women's coach at Nova Southeastern has three of the five top ranked players in Division II, including No. 1 Abbey Gittings and No. 2 Daniela Ortiz. No other team has more than one in the top 10. They're also the three-time defending NCAA Division II champs, and are currently ranked atop the Golf World/NGCA Women's Division II rankings.
But Brown's first year at the helm became more challenging in recent months when her roster shrunk to just four golfers. Chelsey Herbert, a freshman from Wales who was the fifth starter for the Sharks, decided not to return to campus after the winter break.
Brown said Herbett had trouble adjusting to college in the U.S. "She kind of told me last minute so I didn't have a lot of time, but even if I did have a lot of time it's hard to find someone," Brown said. "It's hard to find somebody who just happens to play golf and shoot in the low 80s, 70s."
Despite playing a woman down, Nova Southeastern defended its title at last weekend's Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational, winning the tournament for the fourth straight year (above). Gittings claimed the individual title, bumping her teammate, Ortiz, out of the No. 1 spot in Division II. It's a healthy competitiveness that's spurred the rest of the team, too, Brown says.
"My philosophy is: If you're going out there trying to win an individual title, the results just kind of take care of themselves," said Brown, who was an assistant for four years, and the associate head coach last year, before taking over for Kevin Marsh before the start of this season. "It's just raw talent. That's how we're able to do it. When you have those top three scorers on one team, that's always gonna help."
It's at least compensated for not having a full roster.
It may even help, Brown explained, because each golfer (freshman Liliana Cammisa and senior Claudia Wolf round out the lineup) knows their score will count for the tournament. While every other team brings five players to an event, with the highest round dropping, the players from Nova know what to expect.
"In terms of pressure, they look at it more like any other tournament, not as pressure," she said. "So I think it's actually had a positive effect."
Former Nova Southeastern standout Sandra Changkija, a four-time National Player of the Year who graduated last spring, also continues to be a positive effect on the program. Brown says Changkija remains close with Gittings and sends text messages to encourage her, which has inspired her to excel.
For Brown? She admits there's been some sleepless nights, worrying a bit about decisions as the only coach for the first time this year. One thing's for sure, she's definitely getting a fifth (and hopefully a sixth) player on the roster for next year.
"I'm more clinging on to the edge of the cliff, just hoping nobody gets hurt, than appreciating the success we're having," Brown said. "I think looking back [at the end of the season] I'll be able to appreciate it more but right now I'm just taking one day at a time."