Taking the lead: Busker set to captain St. Kate’s golf
Sydney Busker enters her senior golf season at St. Catherine’s University as a respected team leader and takes over the team captain role this fall - a task that is nothing new to the former Laker standout.
“She’s been a leader since day one,” said St. Kate’s head coach Mary Sweeney. “She’s basically invaluable to our team. She’s an incredible golfer. Beyond golf, she’s an even better person. She’s truly a role model for everyone, including myself. She makes everyone around her better.”
Busker was recruited to the Wildcats’ program by Michele (Edlin) Rutt, a former college teammate of Christine Herzog at the University of Minnesota. Herzog was the leader of DL’s first state championship golf team. Rutt left to become an assistant with the Gophers.
Sweeney took over the Wildcats’ program in the spring of Busker’s freshman season after a successful collegiate playing career at NCAA Division I University of Idaho and has seen the full progression of Busker in three seasons.
“She’s always been super talented, but the biggest thing is her mental game,” Sweeney said. “She doesn’t panic anymore. When she first started she knew she could do it but was putting more pressure on herself. She’s grown out of that, which is huge.”
Busker made an immediate impact on the program and has played in the No. 1 or 2 slot on the team since her freshman year. She also has the ability to play the same game regardless of her position in the lineup.
“She makes my life easy,” said Sweeney. “She truly just wants the best for everybody and she is a lot different than your typical golfer. She’s extremely calm on the golf course and she can make birdies like no other.”
Busker has accumulated school records and distinctions in each of her seasons both on and off the course. She is a three-time All-American scholar, holds the lowest single-round score in program history and the lowest two-day score in program history. She’s led the team to a MIAC championship and the national tournament. All-Conference and All-Region accolades have been earned each season. She was the first Wildcat to win the prestigious DIII Classic, which features several of the top Division III golf teams in the Midwest Region and tied the St. Kate's school record for an individual 36-hole score as a freshman.
The list is lengthy and will continue in 2018-19.
Busker is using her hands-on knowledge to impart what she has learned coming through the program, especially, after having handled so much success with ease.
“I’ve really enjoyed my experience,” said Busker. “Golf-wise, at first you’re a little bit frazzled going into college. I’ve learned a lot over those couple years. My teammates, that part has been so much fun. You get to meet a whole bunch of different girls with different personalities. By this point, I do feel like more of a leader being able to help the girls, especially, the ones coming in, because you remember how that feels with everything being a little bit overwhelming.”
In that time, Sweeney’s take on the game and coaching style have been a perfect match for the former Laker.
“She’s pretty structured and very involved,” said Busker. “She takes into account the individual person a lot, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. She’s flexible on the course as knowing what you might need help on. In high school, we were a little more hands-off. You got used to just figuring things out as you go. She really cares a lot and takes her job very seriously. That’s cool to see, because you hear of that not always being the case.”
After three seasons together, both Sweeney and Busker have a solid grasp on Sydney’s coming senior season both as a golfer and as team captain.
“As far as golf goes, she’s going to keep doing what she’s doing,” Sweeney said. “She’s a consistent, straight hitter. Outside of the golf aspect, we’re super excited to have her as captain. It’ll be good for her. She’ll have to voice her opinion a little bit more and the girls all really admire her.”
Busker’s sophomore year was more of a challenge than her first season as the commitments of academics and life decisions began to present themselves off the course. Like her former DL teammate Trisa Hutchinson, Busker will be graduating with a degree in Occupational Therapy. She plans to stay at St. Kate’s to complete her Master’s degree.
“This past year was really fun,” Busker said. “I figured it out - how to manage the load and being able to teach and support the other girls was the biggest thing.”
At St. Kate’s, academics are weighted more than athletics. While golf takes up plenty of time, coursework can be even more of a challenge. This season, she’ll be juggling grad degree classes and golf.
“With Division III, it’s preached and I think it holds true that academics come first,” said Busker. “The teachers expect just as much of you as if you didn’t have the sport, which is good; it holds you to a high standard.”
Busker has balanced her golf and work over the summer break. Golf has been mostly practicing. She is competing at the State Amateur this week with former Lakers Natalie Roth, Matty Tschider and Kate Smith. Both Busker and Hutchinson are working together in their field this summer at Ecumen Senior Living in Detroit Lakes.
“It’s really cool how those relationships tie over,” said Busker. “It’s crazy, we ended up doing the same thing.”
Busker also got in a big, golf vacation to Scotland. She and her sister Shelby played Carnoustie, site of this year’s Open Championship, a week prior the the tournament.
“That was amazing - I have a lot of respect for the pros,” Busker said.
Busker’s positive attitude and the success she has brought to the Wildcat program make her an ideal leader. As a Laker, Busker was referred to as the team mom and that will likely be the same this coming fall and spring during her final year of college golf.
“That’s probably about right,” she laughed. “I’m more of a lead by example person. I try to connect with everybody too. I’m really excited. I love getting better and being able to compete. I also love the team aspect and the relationships you make there. I want to make a positive impact on those girls’ experience.”
She has set high goals for her final run both individually and for the team.
“This season, I want to keep balance with school, but I would love to beat my 18-hole score and my tournament score,” she said. “It would be awesome if we can get a bid to nationals and win our MIAC championship. It is very competitive.”
According to Sweeney, one of Busker’s best attributes is being able to understand the bigger picture despite being the program’s most decorated and successful golfer.
“You can always do a little bit better,” said Busker.
That is an ideal Busker holds true for both herself and the St. Kate’s golf program.
St. Kate’s begins conference play at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course in Sartell at a MIAC meet hosted by St. Benedict Saturday, Sept. 1.