'Competitive' Fitts closing out decorated DWU career
Its safe to say Lauren Fitts doesn't like to lose. And during her time at Dakota Wesleyan University, she hasn't done much losing. The decorated senior women's golfer heads into her final Great Plains Athletic Conference qualifier with a chance t...
Its safe to say Lauren Fitts doesn't like to lose.
And during her time at Dakota Wesleyan University, she hasn't done much losing.
The decorated senior women's golfer heads into her final Great Plains Athletic Conference qualifier with a chance to claim her fourth GPAC title on Monday at Wild Oak Golf Course in Mitchell.
"I'm very competitive," Fitts, the three-time GPAC women's golfer of the year, admitted. "It's a good thing and a bad thing sometimes."
Fitts leads the GPAC individual title by 11 strokes, having totalled a three-round score of 232 to sit in front of Mount Marty and Parkston native Logan Wagner's 243.
"She's been good for a long time," Gomez said of Fitts. "It's going to be quite some time before we find someone like her. She's going to be one of the best DWU has ever seen."
Gomez said Fitts' competitiveness is a "rare quality" in his time around women's golf and Fitts laughed about how competitive she can become.
"Growing up, my sister is really competitive and we've battled it out on the golf course," said Fitts, whose sister Morgan competed for South Dakota State University from 2009 to 2013. "It hasn't been until recently that I can keep up with her. That's always driven me."
The competitive drive helped Fitts finish her junior season with a 15th place finish at the NAIA national tournament and earned NAIA all-tournament team honors. She's led the Tiger women's golf team to three-straight GPAC titles and helped DWU remain as the team to beat in the GPAC. The Tigers have won the GPAC team title every year except one (2008) since 2003.
Looking back at all of her success at DWU, Fitts said the team success stands out the most.
"I love that it's a team sport but it's an individual sport at the same time," Fitts said. "The conference championships and trips to nationals are the best."
Heading into Monday's final GPAC Qualifier, DWU finds itself in the middle of extremely tight four-team race for the team title. Mount Marty leads the field with a total score of 1,017, while the Tigers trail by one stroke with a score of 1,018. Nebraska Wesleyan sits in third with a score of 1,019 and Morningside isn't far behind in fourth place with a score of 1,020.
"We're really excited for Monday," Fitts said. "We've worked really, really hard and all of the girls are excited. We're lucky it's at our home course."
Fitts said the final conference meet being at DWU's home course is "a huge, huge advantage" for the Tigers.
"The goal is to come away with GPAC title," Fitts said. "The biggest thing is to go out there and minimize mistakes."
Gomez agreed with his senior standout on the final GPAC meet.
"I think they're hungry and they have a desire to win it one last time," Gomez said. "They're excited to be back home. They really believe in their abilities at Wild Oak."
Drive, putt, win
An old adage with golf is "drive for show, putt for dough," which highlights the importance of the sport's shortest shots compared to its longest shots. Gomez said Fitts does a good job of proving how important the short game is on the golf course.
While Gomez said Fitts "drives the ball very well", but it's her short game that separates her from the rest of the field.
"The way she chips and putts, is what it takes," Gomez said. "When she gets around the green, she expects to chip it in or chip it close. When she's in tight competition, she'll make putts like no other. She loves to roll the ball."
Fitts, who was a five-time letter winner for the Brookings Bobcats and finished in the top 20 at the state tournament four years in row, said her game around the game is what carried her to DWU.
"That's what drives me and that's what got me to college golf," Fitts said. "My driver and irons were never that good in high school and that's something I've really improved on in college. But, when my short game is on, that's when I'm playing my best round."
Picking up strokes around the green has been Fitts' calling card during her tenure as the GPAC's top golfer.
"I think that's what makes great golfers, great golfers," Fitts said. "If you can make a chip or a putt, it doesn't matter what you did off the tee."
Gomez referenced DWU's meet at Buena Vista University on April 24 as an example of Fitts at her best. She was tied for first at the end of the round and went on to birdie the first playoff hole to capture the crown. The Buena Vista title was the first individual title for Fitts for the spring season and DWU ended up taking second place at the eight-team event.
"It's her mindset," Gomez said. "She's willing to grind and find the right shot. She just goes and gets it done. She knows she's going to get it done."
Headed for the DWU record books
Entering the final days as a Dakota Wesleyan University women's golfer, Fitts looked back at all of her memories as a Tiger. From success on the golf course to earning her nursing degree, Fitts said DWU was the perfect fit for her.
"I don't think I could have made a better decision," Fitts said. "It felt like home the second I was on campus. It's been the best decision I've ever made."
Fitts said all of her success on the golf course couldn't have happened without the hard work she's put in at DWU. The memories of her run at last year's national tournament stands out for Fitts, who has won multiple events with the South Dakota Golf Association.
"That was pretty awesome," Fitts said about her 15th place finish last year. "My teammates got to follow me on that last day and having their support was awesome. It was great to know all of the hard work paid off."
Fitts will leave her mark on DWU's record book when she finishes her career as well. She's tied with Dani Bellet, a four-year GPAC golfer of the year for DWU from 2008 to 2012, for the lowest 18-hole individual score of 69 and the lowest 36-hole score of 146. Fitts holds the DWU record for lowest 54-hole score of 227, while Bellet still claims the lowest 72-hole score of 301.
Fitts said she plans to keep playing golf after college and is "really excited to get to take some of the money home" at tournaments after her college. But in the short-term, Fitts is focused at the task at hand in Monday's final GPAC tournament.
"Right now, it's focusing on the team," Fitts said. "I know if I play well and shoot a good score on Monday, the team is going to do well and the individual title will come by itself."