Shipley, GVSU cruise to victory in Mass.

GVL / Emily Frye
Senior Gabrielle Shipley

GVL/Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Senior Gabrielle Shipley

Pete Barrows

Conceit is bragging about one’s self – the kind of thing Rickie Fowler might do – and is often more about show than substance, but confidence, is a whole other quality entirely.

It’s a belief you can get the job done and even in doses, a little of it – the sort that enabled pre-scandal Tiger to become the only golfer in history to win four straight majors, Rory McIlroy to play the entire back-nine with nothing but a 7-iron, John Daly to brazenly play the Old Course at St. Andrews in tiger striped Zubaz slacks, Arnold Palmer to boldly blend ice tea and lemonade and Anika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie to take on the boys – can go a long away; particularly on a golf course.

For Grand Valley State University junior Gabrielle Shipley, who had just the right amount of moxie to get the job done on Monday, that length was 13 strokes ahead of the pack, good for first overall at the Merrimack Invitational on the sloping greens of the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston, Mass.

It was the first official outright first of Shipley’s collegiate career.

After carding a career-low round of 2-under 70 in round one, Shipley returned to the course Monday seven strokes ahead of second-place leader, senior teammate and two-time GLIAC Women’s Golfer of the Year Kelly Hartigan, and finished the outing with a 1-under round of 71 to give herself the lowest 36-hole score of her three-year career to date. Shipley, a two-time All-GLIAC First Team honoree, led the field with nine birdies – only one other player made more than five – and played both the par 4s and par 5s at 2-under, pacing all 52 competitors in those categories.

“It was a difficult course in that you had to be strategic with your targets and place the ball in certain areas to give yourself birdie or even par opportunities, but I was happy with my approach and how I played it,” Shipley said. “I could hit 3-wood or driver off the tee and I would still get myself 120 yards into the green, my approaches were accurate and I was putting really well with a new putting style I trusted the entire weekend, both of which helped put my mind at ease and allow me to take advantage of the chances I created.

“I won first place by 13 strokes – there are not many better ways to get your first win – and I did it with a lot of confidence in my game. I was never expecting that – to win a tournament by shooting three under par, but it felt good to reassure to myself that I can be that kind of golfer.”

After shooting a 29-over 317, four strokes ahead of second-place Missouri-Saint Louis and at least 12 shots in front of the other seven teams in the field on day one, No. 6 GVSU, like Shipley, returned triumphantly on Monday to finish what it started. GVSU was the only team to break 320 on either day, firing a 13-over 301 on day two, and with a cumulative score of 42-over 618, the Lakers defeated second-place Missouri-Saint Louis by a margin of 26 strokes.

Hartigan parred 24 of her 36 holes, and placed second with a total round score of 10-over 154, while sophomore Alex Taylor tied for sixth place, the highest finish of her career, after shooting a career-low 2-over 74 on the closing 18 holes and tallying a score of 14-over 158 for the event. Freshman Samantha Moss finished tied for 13th with a 22-over 166, the first top-15 finish of her career, and sophomore Julie Guckian cracked the top 20 for a second straight week with a 24-over 168.

All six of GVSU’s competitors placed within the top-20 at the event, and club selection by club selection, swing by swing, lie by lie, putt by putt, stroke by stroke and hole by hole, the team’s confidence, as it has all season, continued to grow. 

“Gabrielle came off a confidence booster of summer qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and she’s just built off of that this entire season – 3-under par is great golf,” said coach Rebecca Mailloux. “I know getting that first collegiate victory was on her list of goals, especially when you play so well against the field, but it’s really no surprise; Gabrielle is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached and never settles for good enough.

“She’s calm, super focused, in the zone – really the whole team is – and we’re getting results. And that confidence that they each bring to the table in their own way builds, and they feed of it and each other. That makes the individuals better. That makes the team better.”

With only a few weeks remaining in the fall season, GVSU will look to take first place for a third consecutive time later this month at the inaugural Malone Invitational. The two-day event will be held at The Legends at Massillon in Ohio from Oct. 18 through Oct. 19.

And against a very deep conference field, confidence will again be in high demand. 

“We shot our highest team score of the season this past weekend, and several of our girls shot significantly better in round two than they did in round one,” Shipley said. “That’s progress, but we can’t rest on our laurels. 

“We’ve never played the course down in Massillon before, but we do know we’re going to see a lot of tough conference competition. We also know that we need to just go out and do our thing confidently, and can’t allow the competition or the course throw you off our game if we’re going to finish the season strong.”