Megan Moco received the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Sportsmanship Award in a vote of her peers at the end of the 2017 women's golf fall season.
It's a nice award, though it wasn't the one she really wanted.
The Albion College senior from Grosse Ile, Mich., accepted the challenge to improve her game – mentally and physically – and Moco reaped the rewards individually and in leading the team. Her 83-stroke average in five rounds placed her 10th in the league, good for all-MIAA second team status. In addition, Albion finished third in the team standings to qualify as one of the four teams to move on to spring rounds to determine the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Championships.
Moco was joined on the all-MIAA second team by Madison Kroetsch, a senior from Novi, Mich., who achieved an 83.4-stroke average, giving Albion its first pair of all-MIAA award winners in the same season since 2006.
"Brutal," Moco replied when asked about her emotions at missing out on all-MIAA honors in 2017.
"But looking back on how hard I worked this season, I think it has paid off," she added. "I needed to be pushed. I had a conversation with (assistant coach) Jake Maas going into last winter. He sat me down saying we had goals for me to be all-conference and to lead the team to get us to (the spring) playoffs. He said how he was going to annoy me at times, and that I would annoy him in return, but that he would push me harder than I had ever been pushed. He said I would have to accept it and that's how we were going to get there.
"In all the sports I've ever played I have always wanted to be pushed, the way I was this season," she continued. "I told my dad how I wished he would have pushed me more in high school, but he always said he wanted to see how much I wanted to put into it. Having somebody grind it out every day just like I did was an awesome feeling."
Moco was accountable to a weekly practice plan – morning and afternoon – and the result was that her putting has become as solid as it has ever been.
"I went into the season wanting to average 31 putts (per round) after averaging 36 or 37 last year," Moco said. "I knew I was going to be fine from tee to green, but what was going to make or break my round and goals for all-MIAA, was my putting."
The season tested Moco as a leader. Albion started MIAA play with a third place finish in the round at The Medalist Golf Club, its home course. Rivals chipped away at the Britons hold on third place during the next two rounds and they slipped to fourth after a round at Kalamazoo.
"I had a slight breaking point when we finished the round at The Ravines (in Saugatuck)," Moco admitted. "I had to take a seat at a table by myself because I didn't want to stress my teammates out. But it was closer than I had hoped and I knew it was going to be a grind."
Albion's playoff goal was achieved when it finished with a second-place performance in less than ideal conditions in the MIAA Fall Finale.
"Anytime we play in bad weather (Head Coach) Jordan McArleton addresses the team in the van saying we know there are going to be people on the course who are going to quit," Moco said. "He tells us to persevere through the weather, and to move on if you take a high number on a particular hole.
"We all had that mindset to not quit on the day," she added. "I reminded my teammates to take an extra second to look at the putt, to breathe."
Moco calls Kroetsch "her buddy". While Kroetsch didn't putt as well as she would have liked, Moco credits her teammate for having the mental toughness to avoid getting frustrated.
"She was as headstrong as I've ever seen her," Moco said. "We were sitting ninth and 10th in the league standings after the third round and I texted her to say 'let's do this together'. It was an awesome experience to achieve all-MIAA status with her."
An English language arts major with an elementary education concentration, Moco created a challenge with her student teaching assignment by leading Albion to its goal of playing with the MIAA's top four teams in the spring. It is one bridge she is happy to cross.
"The petition (to balance golf and student teaching) starts now," Moco said. "But, at this point, I worked too hard. I deserve it."
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