The number of Durangoans to play for the Fort Lewis College women’s golf team doubled in size this season, as 2015 Durango High School graduate Reiley Waldo decided to play for the Skyhawks this season.
Waldo joined Jessica Thulson as the only other Durango native to play for the women’s program.
“It’s great to have a Durango girl on the team. It’s a wonderful thing,” said FLC head coach Guy Begay, who is in his fourth year leading the program. “Jessica Thulson was a pioneer when it comes to collegiate golf in Durango and here at Fort Lewis. It’s good to see there’s still interest from girls here in Durango who want to play college golf.”
Thulson graduated from DHS in 2011 and played two years at FLC from 2014 to 2016.
The FLC program is in its infancy. It became an official varsity sport at the start of the 2014-15 season, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for local athletes to show their talent at FLC. The fact Waldo is playing college golf, picking the sport back up a couple years after last playing competitively, is a bit of a surprise.
Waldo, who qualified for the state tournament three times with DHS, thought about playing college golf after high school. She chose to attend Southern Utah University on a full scholarship for band and dabbled with the idea of playing golf for the Thunderbirds but decided it wasn’t the right fit and chose to focus on school and band.
She spent two years as a percussionist at Southern Utah while majoring in music education, but during her sophomore year she began clashing with the teaching philosophy of the school and looked for somewhere else to continue her education and love for music.
She decided to come back to Durango and attend FLC where she could play for the school’s band. She knew there would be a lot of opportunity to get her teaching career started in Durango, and only then did a return to golf begin to take shape.
“Guy approached me about playing on the team,” Waldo said. “Even though I haven’t been playing golf for two years, he’s really given me an opportunity to be a part of the team.”
The move back to golf has been frustrating at times for Waldo. Her natural skill on the course is still there. She can still see the shots she needs to hit and recognize the feeling of a pure swing, but, like playing the drums, the golf swing and putting stroke needs a bunch of attention to perform at a high level. A two-year layoff didn’t help.
“Reiley has always had a tremendous amount of talent, and we’re working to shape her into that form where she can utilize the talents she has to score a little bit better,” Begay said. “I think there is a bit of an adjustment, and I think that falls on me and her. ... (Golf and band) need to coexist in Reiley’s head – when to turn the golf on and the band off, and when to turn the golf off and the band back on.”
Waldo rarely played during her time at Southern Utah, and while her swing and feel for the game suffered during the time away from golf, the mental aspect of the game has been the biggest barrier in her return to the links.
“To get out of your head and not put so much pressure on yourself, try to just relax and not think about your swing at the same time, it’s a very finite balance,” Waldo said. “You don’t really have that in music. If you play the wrong note, it doesn’t matter, you just keep going. But with golf you have to recover from that swing that will make the entire hole play harder.”
It’s a delicate balance. One Waldo is still figuring out, but she has the benefit of being one of the better players for the Skyhawks, and as long as that remains she’ll get the chance to play her way through the transition.
“Right now we have 12 girls on the roster all looking for playing time,” Begay said, “and right now Reiley is one of our better ones so she’s going to play as much as we can get her out there. The more time she gets the better she’ll get.”