By Randy Burns
Elly Leonard: On course to be a leader
By Randy Burns
The Louisville Women’s Golf team has received an enormous boost from an Indiana native throughout the first three tournaments of their season. She may only be a freshman, but she has golf clubs and she is not afraid to use them. And although it is early in the season, Elly Leonard has already made her presence felt among her fellow teammates and the competition.
She recently helped her team beat 13 other schools to win the Louisville Cardinal Cup in September after beating UNC-Greensboro by five strokes in the final round. She also finished a Cardinal best in fourth place with a final score of 227 (+11) at the end of the tournament to help send Memphis and Campbell University back home without the championship trophy. “After the first 36 holes we were in the lead, so we just hung on to win,” said Elly Leonard. “You always want to start out as best you can because that first round is always important. It sets the tone for the whole tournament.”
Leonard hails from an Indiana suburb named Zionsville, which is about 15 minutes outside Indianapolis. She was recruited by head coach Kelly Meyers and decided to attend the University of Louisville after her official visit to the campus. In addition to the coach’s personality, Leonard also liked every player on the team. “The team chemistry is so great,” she said. “They all have wonderful personalities.”
Leonard thought that Meyers was the best coach out of all the other schools she was considering at the time. The Cardinals home golf course, Cardinal Club, also persuaded her to make Louisville her collegiate home.
Leonard’s father taught her to play the game of golf and she picked up the sport during her freshman year of high school. After becoming involved in the sport, she began to admire professional golfer Davis Love III who plays on the PGA Tour. “I love his demeanor on the course,” said Leonard. “He has a great attitude and a great perspective on the game.”
As far as the game itself is concerned, Elly likes the putting and driving aspects because she normally hits fairways at a high percentage.
Looking back at her high school years, Leonard recalled her team then. “It’s a lot different to play on a college team than a high school team,” she said. “High school is more for fun and you only play 9 holes instead of 18. Only the high school state championship would come close to the amount of holes we play in a college tournament.”
When golf tournaments aren’t being played, Leonard, like many other golfers, practices each portion of the game every day of the week. She said the NCAA will only allow 20 hours a week for the players to practice together as a team. Individual players, however, are granted “academic days” in which they can practice on their own. That is how the coach works around the 20 hours the team is allowed. During practices Elly tries to focus on putting, chipping, and driving the ball while on the golf course. Qualifying for a tournament, on the other hand, is somewhat different from a simple practice session. “You want to make sure that you keep every aspect of your game under control because it can slip away pretty easily,” said Leonard.
Elly and the remaining 9 women on the golf team voted and ultimately elected senior Jessica Kell to be the squad’s captain this season. “She is a great communicator,” said Leonard. “She can be that middle ground between Coach Meyers and the rest of the team.”
Meyers is a person described by Elly as a ‘player’s coach.’ “She’s got a lot of experience and was a great player in college and after college, so she knows the game very well,” said Leonard. “She does so much for us, it’s hard to explain. She supports everyone 100%, she’s positive all of the time, and she is very encouraging.”
For each tournament, there are only five out of ten players on the team that can qualify and are allowed to travel to the host city. Leonard has used her talent to qualify and participate in all three tournaments the team has played this season. “I’m glad I qualified for the first three, which is really exciting as a freshman. Especially with all of the talent we have on this team,” she said. “And placing in the top ten in one of the first tournaments of the season is very exciting as well.”
She believes she has yet to perform to her highest potential and knows she can play better golf in the future. Despite becoming somewhat nervous before a tournament, she believes that in time her experience in playing the game of golf will eventually overcome her jitters. This was evident in the Lady Cards’ last tournament, which was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico in early October. Elly finished with a score of 84 in the first two rounds of this NMSU Collegiate Invitational. She rallied in the final round, however, with a score of 74. Leonard currently ranks fourth on her team in average score per round with 78.8, and she has already made appearances in every round of every tournament the team has played so far this season.
Although it is early in the season, Elly still has high expectations for herself as well as her team. “Every time we go out we’re going to try and win and at least try to be in the top three,” she said. “Personally, for me, I want to have more tournaments where I finish in the top ten. Every time I go out I try to win and every girl on our team does the same.” She believes there is widespread talent on this year’s team, but as a whole, they have a lot of room for improvement. “We have such high expectations and so much talent that we should be contending to win the Conference USA Championships in April,” she said.