Promising season ends for women's golf at Dalton State

Dalton State Athletics

The Dalton State College women's golf team poses for a group photo.

Isabel Rijos was at practice when she heard.

The Dalton State College senior was with her teammates on the women's golf team when sports leagues and associations at all levels began to shut down on Thursday, March 12, due to concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Though the season wasn't yet over for the Roadrunners, it soon would be. The NAIA announced the following Tuesday that the remainder of the spring sports season would be cancelled.

"It felt like everything was happening all at once," Rijos said. "It was like, 'Wow, everything is done for.' We kind of had a feeling it was coming for us."

The cancellation of the season left a promising season unfinished for both the golf programs at Dalton State. The men's and women's team both finished at No. 5 in the final NAIA poll, and hopes of a conference and national championship vanished for both teams with the announcement of the season cancellation. The basketball team at the school, which had just received a top seed for the NAIA National Championship Tournament, had its chances end too with the cancellation of winter championships.

"It's tough, and it was tough on basketball, too," women's golf head coach Jim McGrew said. "There are obviously bigger things than sports. When you have that kind of a program like us, you have one goal and that's to win a ring. We won't get to do that."

The Roadrunners were scheduled to play in two more tournaments before the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament in early April. The NAIA National Championship Tournament was scheduled to begin May 12.

"I think the best word for it is just disappointed," Rijos said of the season. "It felt like we had such a great team, and we had such a good chance."

Rijos and teammates Haejin Choe and Hannah Gasaway saw their senior seasons come to a premature end, but the career for Rijos isn't over yet, she said. The NAIA, in an announcement similar to the NCAA, has said that senior athletes in spring sports would be granted an extra year of eligibility. Choe and Gasaway chose to forego that offer, McGrew said.

"It's a tough decision," McGrew said. "As a senior, you have to face that choice of whether to move on. They've both had great careers for us."

Choe and Gasaway were both named to SSAC All-Conference teams in 2018 and 2019, and Gasaway was named second-team All-American in the NAIA last year.

Rijos, a three-time All-American, said she plans on taking another year of eligibility to suit up again for the Roadrunners.

"At first, I didn't know whether I should, but after a couple of days, I decided to come back," Rijos said. "I thought, 'Am I going to look back and regret it if I don't play again?' I'm 22, what's another year in school?"

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