Spring Break as a Lady Tiger…
Each year around the beginning of March, the Lady Tiger Women’s Golf Team takes a break from the frozen tundra, which is Illinois, to travel south for almost a week. This year, much like the previous years, these ladies ventured to Orlando, FL for a five-day golf trip. While the days were filled with fun in the sun on various golf courses, the team also had the privilege of serving others along the way, not to mention endless Starbucks runs.
There’s nothing quite like waking up before the sun. The Lady Tigers started their trip off with alarms sounding at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, with most of the girls feeling as though their night’s sleep was merely a short nap. Little chatter took place on the road to the airport, and for some, the minutes were passing by slower than normal, as the anticipation of warmer weather was on everyone’s mind.
The flight was smooth enough for just about every Lady Tiger to catch up on the sleep they seemed to have lost the night before. The girls mentioned not being able to even remember falling asleep when they boarded the flight, but they seemed to not mind the fast passing of time on the plane.
Gathering the golf bags and luggage from the baggage claim could be considered chaotic but eventful to say the least. The team caught the eyes of passersby, as six girls and two coaches created a force walking through the airport with 24 bags between them. The waiting period began as the rental van was being prepared for the team’s departure from the airport, with the time being passed with snacking and card playing.
By the time all 24 bags and eight individuals were able to pile into the van and both the girls and coaches checked in to their hotels, not much daylight was left to hit the links. Instead, a few hours were spent at a nearby course leisurely practicing, and the girls would hit it hard the next morning.
The first day of practice began with an early morning wake up call for the girls, 6:30 a.m. to be exact. Waking up early doesn’t seem to get any easier, even if for a hobby one loves, such as golf. The team had the privilege of playing at Winter Pines Golf Club, the most played course in the state, before having to leave for a volunteer opportunity close to an hour away. The course was too beautiful not to capture a few pictures, then the team was on their way.
The women volunteered at Give Kids the World Village in Orlando for almost seven hours their first day of spring breaking. Give Kids the World Village is an organization which gives children with life-threatening illnesses and their families week-long, cost-free vacations. When asked what her favorite part of the trip was, freshman Kayla Owens mentioned a specific encounter with a little girl, a “wish kid” as the visitors are called, whose arms ended at her elbows. Kayla was changed in the few moments of seeing the joy in this little girl’s eyes and how proud she was to be a wish kid. Her appearance and difficult circumstances did not define her, but rather made her stronger, a lesson Kayla expressed “she would never forget.”
Each girl and coach was stationed at various locations in the village to volunteer, with everyone coming together to help in the dining hall that night. Those hours which could have been spent golfing, were put to use serving others, which each member of the team conveyed was the part of the trip they will take to heart and never forget.
Tuesday morning came rather early for the Lady Tigers, as they had to be up and ready to leave their hotel around 6:30 a.m. to be at Alaqua Country Club for their 8 a.m. tee time. Out of all the courses the girls played during their trip, most expressed that this course made them feel like they really were in Florida, as they were surrounded with palm trees and alligators throughout the course, two things not native to Illinois.
After an enjoyable, yet exhausting, 18-hole round of golf, the golfers were worn out, but they still had enough energy to visit Disney Springs on the way back to the hotel Tuesday night. One of the many traditions the team has kept up with throughout the years, visiting Disney Springs is a highlight of the trip. The ladies and coaches dined at Rainforest Cafe, danced in the middle of hundreds of strangers, then ended the night by walking through shops and one last stop at Starbucks.
Nothing quite compares to the sound of the ocean and the warmth of sunlight touching one’s face. The women’s golf team was fortunate enough to have some time to spare Wednesday morning to take a trip to Daytona Beach before competing later in the afternoon.
According to the girls, the relaxation time was much needed and made the trip truly feel like spring break. The water was a bit cold, but for those from Illinois, it’s not everyday they get the chance to swim in the ocean. The girls braved the cold and laughed continuously as they watched each other get knocked down by waves.
The Lady Tigers played in a mini tournament Wednesday afternoon at LPGA Internantial Golf Club at Daytona Beach with Embry Riddle, a local college golf team. The match was only nine holes, but the experience gave the girls a taste of what competition felt like again, as their last tournament was in October. This match fueled the team’s desire to get back to Illinois and start competing!
The team ending the day with another tradition of eating at Tijuana Flats, a Tex-Mex restaurant close to the LPGA course. The meal was full of laughter and reflection on the previous days, along with a few tastes of hot sauce by the new-bees of the team. This tradition will hopefully live on for the rest of the team’s existence, as it is one of the cherished memories Lady Tigers tend to bring up when they get together.
Thursday was the final day of the Olivet Lady Tigers’ spring break extravaganza. Another early morning wake up call was needed as bags had to be packed, and the van had to be loaded with all 24 bags, two coaches, and six girls. After almost a half hour of attempts loading the van based on various strategic placements, the doors finally closed, and the team was on their way to play at Winter Park Country Club.
Wally Armstrong, an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour during the 1970s and 1980s and longtime friend of the team’s coach, Bill Johnson, met the team at the course to play a round of nine holes. Wally offered the girls tips and materials to help improve their games, as well as showed most of them up on the course. The team was sad to leave Wally, a newfound friend and brother in Christ.
No one wanted to leave the sunshine state on that Thursday afternoon, but the girls and coaches realized that the time had come to venture home. They said their goodbyes to Wally and some of the girls who would stay in Florida for a few extra days with family. It was a bittersweet goodbye but a hopeful “see you soon” was expressed. The experiences the team had on their spring break trip will stay with them forever, and each athlete and coach was changed for the better through them.
“As a team, we grew closer to Christ and closer to each other… granted all of us were not there, but they were with us in spirit; now it is time to make sure we bring the rest of our team into the circle of blessing we all experienced,” Coach Bill Johnson said of his team after their spring break trip to Orlando, FL.