July 16, 2012
In a sport based largely on players having to make the cut to find individual success, this one may be the toughest of them all. The National Golf Coaches Association requires a 3.5 cumulative grade point average before a collegiate player can join the most exclusive coaches' association academic team in the nation.
Despite the stringent requirement, the Montana golf team placed two players on the NGCA's 2011-12 All-American Scholar team, the organization announced recently.
Ashli Helstrom, who graduated in May with a 3.79 GPA as a management information systems major, and Olivia Weber, who will take a 3.95 GPA as a philosophy major into her senior season, both made the cut.
Both coupled their academic success with impressive golf results.
Helstrom, a four-time Academic All-Big Sky Conference selection, concluded her collegiate career in the spring with the fifth-best career scoring average in program history. She played 98 rounds over four years to an average of 79.3.
She finished 16th or better at all four Big Sky Conference championships, highlighted by a fourth-place individual showing at the 2011 conference tournament as a junior.
Weber, three-time Academic All-Big Sky Conference, finished her junior campaign with a season scoring average of 76.3, the best single-season average in program history. Her year-long performance earned her second-team All-Big Sky honors.
Through three years Weber has a career scoring average of 78.1.
Only 602 golfers made the NGCA All-American Scholar team from NCAA Divisions I, II and III. Montana had two of the eight representatives from the Big Sky Conference on the list.
"What Ashli and Olivia have done shows that the players in the program can be a success on both levels, both on and off the course," second-year coach Emily Milberger said.
"They are great examples for both our younger players and for our recruits. It shows you don't need to sacrifice one for the other. You can excel in both."
A great story if it ended there, but it gets better. Both are also devoting themselves to service work this year, Weber in Africa, Helstrom in Central America.
Weber, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is currently in Nairobi, Kenya, working for a nongovernmental organization in the area of women's rights.
After a summer back home in Hibbing, Minn., Helstrom will shortly leave on her own adventure. She will travel to Belize for six months to do Christian missionary work for YWAM (Youth With A Mission).
"It's exciting to have such excellent ambassadors of Grizzly Athletics doing such great things around the world," Milberger continued. "These are exciting journeys for them to embark on."
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