TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Seeing as they finished 19 strokes clear of qualifying for NCAA championships, there wasn’t much suspense for the Florida State women’s golf team on the last day of the NCAA regionals in Shoal Creek, Ala., earlier this month.
But that didn’t stop the Seminoles or coach Amy Bond from reveling in the moment.
With their second-place finish at regionals, FSU qualified for the championship round for the first time since 2010 – the year before Bond took over at her alma mater.
FSU hasn’t had so much as an individual in the NCAA championships since Maria Salinas in 2012. So safe to say it was a long time coming.
“It was indescribable,” Bond said. “Everyone went up and hugged each other. We got in by, like, 19 shots, but, nonetheless, it being the first time that we had qualified was a big, big deal.
“So the emotions were running high. Everybody was really excited. We’re excited to play for a national championship.”
Which is exactly what they’ll do this week at the Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
The 24-team tournament starts with the first of three rounds on Friday. The field will then pare down to 15 teams for one more round on Sunday and, finally, eight
teams for match play competition on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s a format unlike any the Seminoles have played this season, but Bond says she doesn’t plan to change much from the approach that got them there.
“Just go out, enjoy it, have fun, take care of your own business and, at the end of the day, we’ll see how it pans out,” she said. “We have so much confidence and belief in them that the sky is the limit.”
In fact, several Seminoles have said that the confidence and belief that Bond inspires is perhaps her biggest strength.
There’s not much tinkering with a player’s swing mechanics at this time of year. But a coach who can instill proper mindset before her team hits the course can make a big difference once the pressure starts to mount.
“It’s just how she is,” sophomore Morgane Metraux said. “She makes you feel good. And makes you feel like you’re really good at golf.”
Bond would know a thing or two about it.
From 1995-99, Bond starred at Florida State and earned Team MVP honors in 1997, 98 and 99.
The Ocala native had 10 top-10 finishes throughout her collegiate career and, in 2002, was named one of the top 50 golfers in ACC history.
Following her playing career, Bond joined the FSU staff as an assistant coach and ascended to the top job at Princeton in 2006.
After a steady, five-year run in which she guided the Tigers to the upper tier of the Ivy League, Bond got a chance to go back home.
Florida State had an opening for a women’s golf coach, and Bond had an easy decision to make.
“That’s something that you dream for,” said Trelle McCombs, Bond’s close friend and the women’s golf coach at Texas A&M. “But it doesn’t always happen. So when it does, it just makes it that much sweeter.”
But that doesn’t mean Bond always had an easy time.
Taking over a program that had qualified for nationals just once since she left in 2006, Bond arrived in Tallahassee and found that she had a lot of work to do.
She was tasked with laying a new foundation, forging new relationships and – most importantly – rebuilding her roster.
That last part took time. But with each subsequent recruiting class, the Seminoles grew stronger.
“Early on, it was really hard to be back here,” Bond said. “And you’ve got players that you inherited and maybe don’t quite have the same mindset as you. Sometimes, it’s tough working your way through the layers, and it’s frustrating as a coach when you’re having to peel back those layers one by one.
“But I really feel like we have a group now that is buying in to what we’re trying to do.”
Two years ago, Bond scanned her roster and thought it had a chance to be successful – in the future.
She had just signed a freshman class that included eventual top scorer Matilda Castren and future team captain Lydia Gumm. And more help was soon on the way in the form of the Metraux sisters – Morgane and her older sister Kim – and Kayla Jones.
Finally, in 2016, the future became the present. Employing a regular lineup of Castren, Gumm, Jones and both Metrauxs, the Seminoles enjoyed their most successful campaign in years.
They posted five second-place finishes, won the Florida State match-up in February and capped it off by finishing ahead of No. 1 Alabama at NCAA regionals.
The Seminoles placed second, the Crimson Tide fourth. And Castren tied for the individual championship.
“It’s our first win against the No. 1 team in the country,” Bond said. “I think that just gives them the confidence that they can play with anybody.”
Which ought to come in handy this weekend, when the Seminoles play with the top teams in the country.
With a stacked field and a potential six-day marathon lying ahead, FSU will likely need to take its game yet another level if it intends to capture the national championship.
Whether they can do it remains to be seen. But their coach believes they can. And that belief has made its way to her players, too.
“She believes in us, and we know that,” Gumm said. “Just being out there and knowing your coach has your back is a great feeling. She’s always been pushing us to be our best and I’m really excited that we made it – not just for ourselves but for her too.”