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By Bob Kelley
Retired RLC Sports Information Director
INA, Ill. (April 16, 2014) – Good things come in small packages. Most would seem to agree with that. The Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame will add its endorsement of that age-old saying when it welcomes the 2004-05 Lady Warriors Golf Team during its 15th Induction Ceremony Saturday, April 26, on the Ina campus.
A veteran team that ran away with the program’s fourth Region XXIV crown in six years in record-setting fashion and then finished a best-to-date fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Championships will share the stage with a Charter Member of the RLC Women’s Golf Team, the only two-time Region Medalist in at least 15 years, Bobbie Jo Bivens (1999-2001).
The RLC Sports Hall of Fame Banquet transforms into Ladies Day at 5:30 p.m. in the Pat Kern Private Dining Room of the Student Center. The public is invited (reservations required).
Bivens and a strong supporting class finished sixth in the NJCAA Finals their first spring in 2000, seventh the next. They qualified both seasons after winning Region XXIV titles.
A new family of Lady Warriors, also coached by Cindy Corn, dreamed big again in 2004-05 after Rend Lake College claimed a third Region XXIV title and finished a best-yet fifth-in-the-nation the previous spring. Four returning players were all key contributors then and hoped to improve on their freshman achievements.
Not too tall of an order, apparently, for 5-foot-2 1/2 Third-Team All-American Danielle Kaufman, 5-3 Casey Biddinger, 5-4 Nicole Adams, 5-4 newcomer Surita Risseeuw and, certainly not, for 5-9 Ashley Hemann and 5-6 Meredith Mosel.
Corn & Family, including its traveling troupe of parents and other family members at almost every event for two years, took care of business Fall 2004 by setting a Region record by 17 strokes and routing runner-up John A. Logan by 46 with 324-321–645 credentials.
South African Freshman Risseeuw (Pretoria) and Kaufman (Nashville) were 1-2 at 77-80–157 and 80-79–159, respectively, followed by All-Region honorees Biddinger (Lafayette, IN / McCutcheon High School) in fourth at 82-84–166 and Mosel (DeSoto / Carbondale Community H.S.) in fifth at 85-82–167, with Hemann (Highland) sixth at 88-80–168.
That spring, the determined Midwestern contenders moved up a notch to No. 4 in the nation thanks in part to a 315-shot second round which equaled the day’s best by frontrunner, host and eventual champion Daytona Beach (FL) Community College. Risseeuw tied for fifth but was relegated to Second-Team All-America status due to a scorecard playoff with her 77-74-80-81–312.
Hemann improved one spot in a year’s time, from 19th to 18th, and was named to the All-Tournament Team with a 91-81-81-80–333 (the same total as in Spring 2004). Kaufman, 12th overall as her team’s top finisher as a freshman at 328 but undermined as a sophomore by a serious leg injury, and Adams, who earned a top-five position with her play during the spring, tied for 20th individually with rounds of 81-84-87-83–335 and 87-76-86-86–335. Biddinger’s 95-86-86-82–349 put her 30th and counted toward the team score two days.
Two-time defending champ Daytona Beach won with its 1,249, ahead of traditional powers McLennan Community College (TX) at 1,282 and Redlands C.C. (OK) at 1,289, with the Rend Lakers checking in at 336-315-333-326–1,310.
RLC Lady Warrior squads placed fifth in the NJCAA Finals five of the next six seasons and have settled for seventh once and ninth once since Spring 2005 but have never duplicated the No. 4 showing against an all-encompassing competitive field which favors programs in warmer, year-round climates offering more full-ride athletic grants-in-aid and recruiting multiple foreign competitors.
The 2004-05 contingent lost one and gained one during the split season. Sophomore Courtney Doughty (Benton) returned in the fall before graduating early thanks to high school dual credits. She was “replaced” in the spring by former RLC All-American Elizabeth Kasey, who served as an Assistant Coach to Corn prior to her induction into the RLC Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
The 2004-05 gang had plenty of experience winning.
In addition to duplicating the back-to-back Region XXIV titles by Bivens & Co., the Lady Warriors in Fall ’04 defended their championship in the seven-team McKendree Invitational, setting 18- and 36-hole team records at 319-313–632, and won the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Invite with a 342-340–682, headed by playoff-winning medalists Hemann (156 at McKendree) and Risseeuw (167 at SIUE).
Risseeuw also won the 14-team Southern Indiana Screaming Eagle Classic with a one-under tournament record 74-71–145 and was third in a 20-team field of four-year programs at Illinois Wesleyan. The superstitious Risseeuw could not have done so, she would be the first to admit, without the golf glove she always wore.
“That first team was pretty close-knit,” Corn recalled, “but this team may have been even more so. Almost all of their families came to every tournament, which is rare. I think we knew we had something special going. We won some tournaments and then won the Region big. They were fun to coach, too, because we had so much talent on that team.”
There was no jealousy when Risseeuw – who was one of the most talented Lady Warriors of all time – joined the veterans. She came highly recommended to Corn by Mia van Rooyen, a fellow South African competitor who was Third-Team All-America for RLC the year before, one stroke and two spots behind Kaufman, as well as Region XXIV runner-up behind Kaufman.
“I think everyone knew how much better the team was going to be with her in the lineup. Plus, everybody loves competition; they took turns stepping up. Everyone was very close. Any time you are competitive and you are winning, it’s fun. They really supported each other,” said Corn.
Kaufman and Biddinger both carded holes-in-one as freshmen. Both were under the most unique of circumstances.
Kaufman became only the second player to record an ace in the NJCAA Finals. She fired her first hole-in-one on the par-3, 131-yard 13th hole at Halifax Plantation Golf Club during the Second Round in Ormond Beach, FL and powered Rend Lake College to the day’s second-best round and into Top Five contention.
The accomplishment was magnified by the fact if she had not gotten special permission to ride in a cart due to health issues (Compartment syndrome) from the governing NJCAA and approval from her doctor and parents, Kaufman would not have been able to participate.
Biddinger was first to show Kaufman and mates how to pull off the ace-in-the-hole trick earlier that spring. Biddinger was part of history in March, when all three playing partners in the St. Croix Collegiate Classic registered holes-in-one, also during the Second Round. She was the last in the group to do so and helped garner national attention for the Lady Warriors.
Playing partners Chelsea Bach of Illinois State University and Tucker McCarthy of Longwood College (VA) both aced the 14th hole in the Virgin Islands on March 13. If the RLC entry in the threesome felt left out, it did not stay that way for long. Biddinger aced No. 17.
Kaufman likewise left her mark on the Lady Warriors home course. She set a Rend Lake Golf Course women’s record with a four-under 68 from the Gold tees (5,922 yards) during the 2003-04 campaign.
Corn liked the makeup of her team from the get-go, because most were multi-sport standouts. Hemann was a member of a State Championship Cheerleading squad at Highland. Kaufman earned 12 varsity letters and was a two-time All-Stater and All-Tournament for a State Championship Softball team as a sophomore. Mosel lettered all four years in softball and golf and was a two-time MVP and batting champ on the diamond.
SIU-Edwardsville pulled off a recruiting coup in Spring 2005 by signing Kaufman, Hemann and Biddinger, although Kaufman would finish her career at SIU-Carbondale as a senior.
Risseeuw transferred to Daytona Beach C.C. for her sophomore year and was runner-up in the medalist chase as host Daytona Beach successfully defended its National Championship in 2006.
Mosel, whose sister Megan was a teammate of Bivens, was 24th at Nationals the following season and played her last two years for Henderson State University (AR), while Risseeuw finished her career at Rollins College (FL).
Several team members have remained close to the game.
Kaufman, who like Kasey returned for a couple of seasons to assist Corn, is now the Golf-Teaching Professional at Indian Ridge Golf Club in Oxford, OH, and recently was named Women’s Golf Coach at University of Indiana East.
Kasey is a member of the LPGA and has served as Assistant Pro at Holiday Golf Club in her hometown Panama City Beach. Casey Spencer, née Biddinger, whose father played for Purdue University, has worked previously for golf courses in her hometown. Mosel works for a sporting goods store in Louisville, KY.
Surita Du Plessis, née Risseeuw, is a married professional now living back in South Africa. Ashley DeSelm, née Hemann, is a mother of two living in Imperial, MO. Adams, of Glen Carbon, is not expected to attend Induction ceremonies because she is in the military awaiting deployment.
The RLC Sports Hall of Fame is located in the lobby area of the Aquatics Center, which also serves as the entrance to James (Hummer) Waugh Gymnasium.