The women's golfers at North Dakota State say they're often pegged as members of a winter sports team, given the fact that most of them are measured in the 5-foot-10 range and look like they haven't seen the sun. Turns out they haven't.
The Bison, who will be making the team's first Division I postseason appearance, are the northern-most school in the West Regional and won the Summit League title without having a single practice session outdoors because of brutal weather in North Dakota.
"We call ourselves the big kids from the north," said Sarah Storandt, who joked about the difficulty of maintaining a consistent tan. "Everyone thinks we're like a volleyball team or basketball team."
No tans, perhaps, but the Bison say they're rested and ready for Thursday's start of the regional at the Stanford Golf Course in Palo Alto, Calif., where they're seeded next-to-last in the 24-team field. Senior standout Amy Anderson, who is making her fourth straight individual trip to the regional, is happy to have the company in teammates Abby Knutson, Cydney Hasselberg, Storandt and Hailey Boner.
"I don't doubt that we have the ability on our team but it's another thing to put it all together at the same time," Anderson said. "We're going to have fun. I can guarantee that."
The Bison have spent the winter and spring practicing at an indoor facility in Fargo called the Sports Bubble, which coach Matt Johnson owned before selling it in 2012. The team tries to spice up their sessions by playing virtual golf on a simulator, but there's no substitute for the real thing.
Johnson said NDSU used the first tournament of the spring season as a throw-away because he knew the team's putting and chipping would be clumsy. The Bison were 10th out of 12 teams. But they were quick to regain touch, shooting what would have been a school record in the second tournament had it not been for a scoring snafu.
"It sure would have been nice to get outside, but they understand that's the way it is," Johnson said. "They're all from around here so they've done it every year in one way or another."
Even when they have been able to practice outside, it has usually been in stocking caps. Knutson, who grew up in the small town of Hatton, said the Bison women wear bad weather like a badge of courage.
"We're used to having our seasons start when the snow melts," Knutson said. "Sometimes it's the middle of April, sometimes it's May. We play in snow, we play in rain, we play in wind and 40 degrees. It doesn't really matter."
Anderson, who was briefly thrust into the national spotlight two years ago when she tied for the first-round lead at the U.S. Open with Cristie Kerr, said her teammates have helped to keep her on level ground.
"It's all about perspective," Anderson said. "Especially athletes and especially athletes at a high level. They can live and die around their sport and sometimes get things out of perspective. I love to win, but my teammates have encouraged me to take my faith more seriously."
Anderson, who grew up near a golf course in Oxbow, 20 miles south of Fargo, has won four events this season and has 19 career victories. The NCAA does not keep individual golf records, but statistics in GolfWorld magazine show she broke the Division I record of 17 career wins set by Juli Inkster of San Jose State.
Boner said Anderson acts like a teammate and not a star.
"She doesn't belittle you and make you feel like you're living in her shadow," said Boner, a freshman from Stillwater, Minn. "She's a great golfer and all of us hope to fill her shoes in the next couple of years, but to us she's just a teammate and we love her."
The top eight teams and top two individuals qualify for the national championship May 21-24 at the University of Georgia. Anderson, who plans to attend LPGA Qualifying School in the fall, is looking to return to the final tournament after falling one shot out of a playoff in last year's regional.
"You just have to go out there and focus on the process because you can't go out there and decide to win," she said. "That's not how it works."