COYOTE CORNER – Abby Donovan

Kansas Wesleyan’s Abby Donovan could feel the pressure mounting as she approached the tee on the 18th hole at Mariah Hills Golf Course during the finals of the Kansas Conference Match Play event earlier this month in Dodge City.


She and Bethany’s Elin Kennborn were all square after Donovan won the 16th hole and they halved No. 17. Making things even more interesting was the fact Coyotes and Swedes had split the other four matches, meaning the Donovan-Kennborn winner would clinch the title for their team.


“I was thinking going up to the last tee I have to win this because if I didn’t then the whole team would lose and it would be all my fault,” Donovan said. “It was a terrible to be thinking that before going to the last tee.”


She managed to steady herself, though.


“I knew that thinking that wouldn’t lead to anything good so I just needed to be like ‘okay Abby you can do this and you will do it.’ And I did.”


Donovan’s huge drive set up an eagle putt and she won the hole giving the Coyotes’ a 3-2 victory and the coveted conference title.


Donovan relied on her previous experiences in similar situations.


“I’ve definitely had a lot of nerve-wracking moments in my golf career,” she said. “All those moments led me to handle the pressure well. I just knew that I just needed to go out there play my own game and whatever happened would happen.”


KWU coach Coleman Houk said the victory was monumental for Donovan and the Coyotes.


“It was a boost for her confidence but was also a massive boost for the team,” he said. “We’d lost to Bethany the first time we played at home so there was a little bit of a question mark.”


Suffice it say Donovan was thrilled.


“It was definitely a confidence booster; I couldn’t stop smiling after I won. I probably smiled for 30 minutes after that,” she said. “My heart was beating so fast and after that I just know that I can do anything I set my mind to basically.”


One week later, Donovan tied for third in the Evangel Valor Fall Invitational in Springfield, Mo. helping the Coyotes win the event by 27 strokes and propelling them into the winter offseason with ample momentum and confidence.


That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done, though. There’s always room for improvement and for Donovan it starts on the greens.


“Putting. I admit I do three-putt quite a bit and it’s probably my weakest point,” she said. “If I could just not three-putt I could shave three to five strokes off my game. It’s definitely a mind thing. You just have to do it over and over again so you can get a good feel.


“I’m still not the best at (reading greens). It’s another thing I could work on. It helps when I get a little help from the coaches and that kind of helps me be more confident with my putting and I make more of them.”


Houk agrees.


“With her ball striking if she could couple that with shaving a few strokes on the greens I think she could really be a special player,” he said. “That’s what the offseason is for. I’m sure she’s looking forward to having four or five months to really focus on that.”


Houk has no doubts she’ll address the matter early and often.


“Her ceiling is very high with her ball striking ability and she has the drive to want to get better every day so she puts in a lot of time,” she said. “I see her working even more down the road to really be a special player for us for the next two and a half years.”


As exhilarating as winning the match play title was it ranks second on Donovan’s list of accomplishments. The first was in July at the Salina Country Club during the Senior LPGA Pro-Am event when she played with Annika Sorenstam.


“This was the most fun time I’ve had playing golf ever,” she said after the round. “Being able to play with Annika was really cool.”


Donovan started playing golf at an early age – really early.


“I started when I was able to walk,” she said. “Both of my parents played and they got me into it. I grew up golfing with my dad and all his friends on a small course.


“I had indoor facilities; we had a putting green in my basement and my dad would always be like ‘do you want to go have a putting call’ and I was like ‘sure.'”


Donovan said she didn’t take the game seriously until her sophomore year in high school.


“After going to state (for the second time) I was like ‘if I start working harder, I could probably go somewhere with this,'” she said. “Everybody saw it and they all kind of pushed me.”


Donovan placed third in the 2019 Class 4A state tournament her junior year and was second in the 2020 4A tournament her senior season.


She then chose KWU to continue her career.


“I’m really happy with my choice to come here,” she said. “I love my team, they’re all so good. They push me to be better because it’s like a little competition. We’re equally as good as each other and it’s a lot of fun.”


Donovan said the Coyotes’ fall success bodes well for the spring session that begins in January.


“It’ll be a lot of fun,” she said. “I think we’ll be able to do great things this spring.”