Photo By Hillary Ehlen
In the history of North Dakota State women’s golf, there have been some incredible individual performances. One of the primary highlights has to be Amy Anderson shooting a 66 over 18 holes in March of 2012, a school record. Anderson, a senior at the time, has gone on to become the most recognized NDSU golf alumni, currently playing on the LPGA Tour.
Taylor McCorkle, a native of Oregon, Wisconsin, is in her second year in the Bison golf program. Though she has had a string of excellent individual tournaments thus far in her NDSU career, she set a new bar for golfers to come on March 15 in St. George, Utah. McCorkle shot a third round 65 at the Pizza Hut Lady Thunderbird Invitational, breaking Anderson’s already impressive 18-hole mark. Couple that with a second round 76 and she shot 141 over the course of 36 holes that day, breaking the school record held by teammate Emma Groom. McCorkle also won the tournament by two strokes.
Oddly enough, McCorkle was so focused on each shot, that she had no idea she was on pace to break the school’s record. “I actually didn’t even know where I was throughout the whole round. When I play my best, it’s when I don’t know where my score is because I’m just focusing on one shot at a time. When I start thinking about scores, I start to force things,” McCorkle said. “I know I had a few back to back birdies and an eagle and that started to get into my head a little towards the end, knowing I was under par somewhere. I just tried to stay grounded and focus on sticking with one shot at a time and staying with my strategy because I had a game plan for every hole and I didn’t want to change that at all.”
A month removed from her record-breaking performance, McCorkle still has a hard time processing what she did and who she surpassed. What is even more impressive, outside of surpassing a now professional golfer in the school’s record books, is that McCorkle is only a sophomore. Anderson, as mentioned earlier, was in her final year on campus when she shot a 66.
“Shooting anywhere under par is really good so knowing she shot a 66, that’s really good. So shooting 65 was pretty cool, it just kept me grounded and motivated to keep working at it,” she said about breaking Anderson’s record. “Obviously, you’re not going to shoot 65 every round and it’s tough to come back from that your next round. It’s starting to sink a little bit now, but knowing that if I stick with my strategy and play smart, I am capable of shooting scores that are lower.”
It’s not as if McCorkle came out of nowhere either. She has been a force on the golf course since she stepped onto campus last year. She was named to the Summit League Women’s Golf Championship All-Tournament Team last year as a freshman. The NDSU women ended up winning that conference tournament last year. McCorkle was also second on the team in stroke average in her first year in the program. The only Bison better than her in that category was Natalie Roth, who just so happens to be playing professional golf now too.
“It’s all about prioritizing things and focusing on what is important and what isn’t,” McCorkle said in regards to being so successful so quickly in her collegiate career. “Being able to manage your time, focusing on the good things and making memories, but also being able to be disciplined and focus on stuff like that.”
In her sophomore campaign, McCorkle did not see a drop off in her play. She finished in the top 12 in six tournaments this season including two wins at the aforementioned Pizza Hut Lady Thunderbird Invitational and the Diane Thomasen Invitational in the fall. She also finished the year first on the roster and eighth in the conference in stroke average.
With an all-around team effort, the NDSU women’s golf team had a successful season despite not repeating as conference champions. The team broke a school record at the Red Rocks Invitational in late March. They set the lowest 54-hole score with 872 at that tournament. At this season’s Summit League Championships, McCorkle finished tied for seventh individually. With only one senior on the roster this season, McCorkle sees a bright future as this season concludes and the summer approaches.
“It’s super exciting because we have a lot of talent and a lot of potential. We know that even when we broke those records, we still had things we could’ve done a lot better too,” she said. “We’re just focusing on that and focusing on the positives and being happy and proud and excited on the things we’re doing while still focusing on our next tournament.”
For McCorkle, it’s less about being physically ready and more about being mentally prepared for each shot, hole and round. Having a strong mental fiber is the most vital quality to have for golfers. McCorkle feels she has found the right formula mentally. “I just like to stay present and not think ahead or get ahead of myself. I also try not to think about what has happened in the past like the last hole or the hole before that. Especially if you’ve come off a hole where it’s not such a good score,” she said. “Just focusing on the holes ahead and the shot ahead. That’s been really crucial in changing my mentality and that has been helping a lot this season, especially in the spring.”
If one thing is clear, it’s that Taylor McCorkle is destined for stardom at North Dakota State. Capturing a school record set by the program’s best golfer is remarkable. It’s even more unbelievable that McCorkle was two years younger than Amy Anderson when she shot an 18-hole school record. Does that mean that Taylor McCorkle has the potential to surpass Anderson in other school records? Maybe. Only time will tell, but it’s hard to bet against Taylor McCorkle at this point.