Shannon Sykora was absolutely ecstatic when he was named the Barrry University women’s golf coach some two years ago.
Of course, the title came with the word “interim” attached.
That “interim” part of his title has since gone away. The school more than happily blotted it out after Sykora’s team finished third in the nation a year ago and is currently ranked second in the country.
Not only that, one of his players — Nancy Vergara, a junior from Venezuela — became the school’s first individual national champion in any sport a year ago.
Other key players on this year’s team include:
• Nicky Ferre, a sophomore from Weston. She is ranked second in Division II for this season, and has not finished out of the top five in four tournaments so far.
• Maria Paola Fiorio, a sophomore from Italy. Her nickname is M.P. and she is one of the starting players and a team leader.
• Daniela Murray, a junior from Brazil. “She is very precise with a good short game,” Sykora said.
• Francesca Perini, a junior from Italy. “Also a good short game,” Sykora said. “A strong putter and a good scorer.”
• Martina Bertuccioli, a freshman from Argentina. She has been in the starting lineup for three of the first four tournaments.
• Paloma Vega, a freshman from Spain.
• Paola Grande, a junior from Miami Christian, Eiken Hansen, a sophomore from Germany, and Carolina Heredia, a freshman from Colombia, round out the team.
“This absolutely feels good,” said Sykora, 41. “I’m fortunate to have a great bunch of players.”
Then Sykora quickly adds, “Smart players. They have the No. 1 GPA at the school. They work hard in the classroom and on the golf course.”
The fact that each of them is an underclassman bodes well for the future, and Sykora points out the obvious when he says, “There’s a nice international atmosphere to the team. Miami is a great international city and kids love to come here.”
Sykora’s background includes some golfing travels himself, playing on the South American and European tours, a few PGA events and the former Nationwide Tour that is now the Web.com tour. “But my competitive days are over,” added Sykora, who is a University of Tulsa graduate.
Making things difficult for Barry and Sykora is the Division II regional that Barry plays in with fellow powerhouses Nova Southeastern, Lynn, Rollins and Florida Southern. “All highly ranked,” Sykora said. “The regional might be tougher to win than the national.”
And what about that national, coach?
“I think we have a shot at No. 1,” he said.
With the Barry men coached by Jimmy Stobs currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, the possibility of a No. 1 sweep by Barry is possible, but we shouldn’t be mentioning that.
Sykora plays the possibility cautiously.
“We don’t talk about a sweep,” he said. “We just talk about what we have to do to play the best that we can play.”
THAT’S A FACT, JACK
Many presidents — Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, to name a few — have been avid golfers. But the biggest presidential fan of the game might have been Woodrow Wilson. He was so enamored with the sport that he would play in the winter in the snow, and would use black golf balls so he could find his ball.