Salant hopes to help teammates capture NCAA Division III women's golf title
Williams College senior golfer Georgiana Salant is already a two-time Division III Academic All-American and in 2013 was the first player in program history to be named a first-team All-American.
Add to that her leadership skills -- "you couldn't ask for a better leader," says Ephs coach Erika DeSanty of her co-captain -- and you have the personification of a model student-athlete.
"Georgi was my first recruit," says DeSanty. "Pretty good, huh?"
Now that first recruit is about to play in her last event for the Ephs, giving the 21-year-old from Encinitas, Calif., an opportunity to end her four-year Williams story with the perfect ending in the 72-hole NCAA Division III Championship at the Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla, starting Tuesday.
"We are very hopeful of winning a national championship," said Salant, who always puts achieving team goals ahead of personal glory.
"The message Georgi sends is that she loves competing because of her teammates," DeSanty said. "At Amherst (Jack Leaman Invitational) we had, without a doubt, our worst tournament, She was medalist, but it didn't feel good to her because she was alone and we didn't accomplish what we wanted to as a team.That's powerful stuff, especially in golf, where you are raised to compete as an individual."
"Coming out on top without the team doesn't feel great," confirmed Salant, whose selfless motivation is especially important when her game isn't totally dialed in.
"I buy into our team goals in every tournament," Salant said. "I always try to play to the best of my ability, but when I'm not at my best, I grind it out and keep pushing because the team is counting on me."
Salant's current ability to score well on her off days is one reason DeSanty believes she has become a more complete golfer as she has matured.
"Right now, I think Georgi is sharper than she has ever been," DeSanty said. "I mean that mostly from a mental perspective. Even if her game isn't where it should be, she has great confidence and realizes she doesn't have to be perfect to score well. She's able to maintain her composure if she hits a bad shot or has a bad hole."
Both Salant and DeSanty believe this year's team is the strongest the Ephs, who finished fifth in the past two national tournaments, have had. Both point to the addition of freshmen Tracey Kim and Sarah Hasselman as a key reason why. The newcomers have both had high finishes, with Hasselman even taking medalist honors in Middlebury, Vt., in the fall.
"Tracey and Sarah are remarkable first-year athletes," DeSanty said.
"I look back to when I was as a freshman, and they are miles ahead of where I was," Salant said. "It is awesome to see how well they have integrated themselves into the team. I expect great things from them at nationals."
Rounding out the team in Florida will be junior Shelby Shote and senior co-captain Emily Wickstrom, who both have NCAA Championship experience.
"Being co-captain with Emily has been awesome," Salant said. "It's been a great ride. We started texting before school even started [as freshmen] and have been best friends since the start of our time here. It's great to find a friendship like that."
With depth having been a calling card this year -- DeSanty has used five different lineups, with sophomore Kelly Kung along with juniors Caroline Sawin and Paige Whidbee also playing well -- making the final call on the lineup for this week wasn't easy.
"Our depth has made us more competitive in practice and in tournaments," DeSanty said. "They are all great team players and have been supportive of the decision."
The coach won't predict a national title, but says "if we perform up to our ability and reach our team's goals, we will be in position to compete for the title."
And it can only help that DeSanty brought the team to this week's host course for its spring training trip.
"That was the best thing we could have done," Salant said. "The [El Campeon] course is very tricky. It's pretty short, but you can get in a lot of trouble. Playing it for four days was super helpful."
Salant, a chemistry major who will attend graduate school at the University of Colorado after graduating next month, and her teammates will have another advantage this week over last year.
"It was finals week during the tournament and it was very stressful knowing I had to take finals," said Salant, who finished fifth individually. "This year, we are playing before finals week, so our heads should be in the right place."
In an academic and athletic career during which Salant has excelled, it comes as no surprise that she aced her first college test -- choosing a coach and school.
"It was tough at first, but I have no regrets," she said. "Coach was a big reason I chose Williams and I can't be more thankful for how she has helped me grow as a golfer and a person. I will keep playing golf, but I will miss playing in the team atmosphere. I am thankful for the teammates I have had and the social and academic experiences at Williams."
"Getting Georgi to come here was emotional for me," DeSanty said. "Getting her to pick Williams made me realize we have the ability to recruit and show recruits that being an athlete and student at Williams can be a great experience. A lot of them could be Division I players, but they chose Williams for multiple reasons -- for the school, the community and because they love golf and want to compete for national championships."
As the Ephs will do this week when they look for the right formula to send their chemistry major off as a national champion.
To contact Richard Lord;
or (413) 496-6236.
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At a glance
Year: Senior. Major: Chemistry.
Hometown: Encinitas, Calif.
Family: Daughter of Tony and Liz Salant; younger sister Isabella will play golf at Santa Clara University in the fall.
Victories: Has won medlist honors in 10 tournments in her four-year college career.
Noteworthy: Placed fifth individually in the 2013 NCAA Championship. ... set an individual one-day school scoring record with a 71 (1-under) at the Vassar Invitational and an individual school two-day record with a 73-71 (2-over) at the Williams Fall Invitational as a junior. ... was awarded the LPGA Foundation's Marilyn Smith Scholarship coming out of high school. Smith is one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour.