06/25/14 — Simmons headed to the Orient

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Simmons headed to the Orient

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 25, 2014 1:48 PM


HANOVER, N.H. -- This is a summer vacation Tara Simmons certainly didn't expect to experience.

Instead of hitting golf balls on local courses and competing in tournaments to sharpen her game, she's going to tee it up with some of the nation's top collegiate players in the Orient during the next three weeks.

Simmons, a rising sophomore at Dartmouth College, has been selected to play on the 2014 NCAA All-Star Golf Team. The 10-member squad played in an NCAA All-Star Invitational in Los Angeles today, and leaves Thursday for a three-week tour of the Orient that includes stops in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"I'm really excited for this opportunity and I hope I can represent Dartmouth and America, in general, in the right way," said Simmons, a graduate of Charles B. Aycock.

"Hopefully I can play some good golf ... see the world. I have no idea what to expect, so I'm going into it with an open mind and make the most of it."

Aware of Simmons' passion and love for golf, Dartmouth coach Alex Kirk encouraged the freshman to apply for the prestigious team, which is in its 31st season. The two-time N.C. High School Athletic Association state 3-A champion filled out a questionnaire that inquired about her interests, activities on campus and her first year on the Big Green golf team.

Simmons didn't think any more about it once she submitted the application.

Now, she's part of a group that will square off in Pro-Am type competitions and matches against some of the countries' top talent.

"I think it's going to be tough, especially with women's golf exploding over there," Simmons said. "It will be great competition and that's one of the things I'm looking forward to, seeing how this team from America stacks up against those teams. I'm looking to make a ton of new friends."

Simmons improved during the spring and produced her best 18-hole score -- 4-over 76 -- during opening-round play of the Ivy League Championships at Baltusrol. She finished 24th overall and logged a stroke average of 84.1 in four meets.

The biggest adjustment was the weather.

In a region where it snows for most of the winter, Dartmouth practiced indoors. When the team moved outdoors, it faced a period of acclimating itself to the climate and challenging courses.

"The transition into spring season was completely different," laughed Simmons. "You go from putting perfect lies (indoors) to hitting real shots on real grass with the weather elements. It's not that I wasn't prepared for it, I just wasn't expecting that big of a difference.

"I played pretty well once I figured out how to hit the ball outside again."

Simmons emerged as one of 14 freshmen to rank among the Ivy League's top 30 golfers in stroke average. She helped lead Dartmouth to a sixth-place finish in the season-ending conference tournament.

That experience alone, along with an improved mentality, should prove fruitful for Simmons in the coming weeks. The Orient has produced several top-flight golfers on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour (LPGA) during the past 10 years, and some of those players have claimed major championships.

"I'm sure I'm going to meet some incredible golfers while I'm there," Simmons said. "Maybe we can learn a few things, see how they are running their programs and implement those here. I can come back and talk with my coach to see what we can do to build our program in the future."