In the spring semester of 2019, the Florida Tech Athletic Department dismissed three of its sports programs: the men’s and women’s tennis team, and the women’s golf team.
“In a five-minute meeting, the athletic director told us we were being cut because we weren’t competitive enough,” said Noelle Beijer, one of the eight women on the women’s golf team.
Instead of wearing Panther apparel this season, Beijer will be sporting Tiger attire at the University of Missouri.
She is one of three from the women’s golf team to transfer to another university to continue her collegiate golf career.
A key player for the Panthers, The Dutch native has an impressive golf career, scoring an average of 76.33 during her time at Florida Tech, as well as being a medalist honors at the 2018 World Golf Invitational.
Continuing her education path and majoring in global management and finance, Beijer is excited for her future at Mizzou but is saddened that she will no longer be playing on the field with her best friends and old teammates.
“The fact that I don’t even know when I will see them all again makes me sad,” Beijer said.
According to Florida Tech’s athletic director, Bill Jurgens, there were multiple factors that led to the team being cut, including a lack of competitive edge, facilities, the size of the team and the number of athletes that would be affected by the cut.
“We knew the team had not performed well in the fall, but by no means were we poor performers,” said Lauren Watson, a senior and member of the women’s golf team.
Although the women did not start off strong at the beginning of their season, they proved to leave their mark by the end of the season.
“The day we were cut, February 7, we were ranked 21 in the nation,” Watson said. “By March 26, we were fourth.”
The Scotland native described the news of being cut as giving her a sense of “betrayal” and leaving her feeling “undervalued.”
“Why us?” Watson said. “Why now?”
Refusing to go down silently, Watson challenged what she saw as discrimination with the backing of Title IX by talking to coaches and NCAA compliance directors.
After doing so, the NCAA ruled that she, as well as another woman, on the golf team could play and compete with the men.
“I know playing on the men’s team will be far more challenging due to the length of courses they play and the lack of strength and power I have in comparison,” Watson said. “It’s going to be a big adjustment because as I much as I love the guys, I’ll really miss the girls.”
Even though the news of the cut came in the middle of their season, the women persevered in the wake of what Watson described as disappointment, confusion and anger.
By mid May, the women’s determination and competitiveness led them to bring home a gold trophy with the label NCAA Division II Champions.
“Winning nationals was simply the best thing we could do,” Beijer said.
One key player that helped the Panthers take home a massive win was Megan Dennis.
Dennis had five top 10 finishes in the 2018-19 season for the Panthers, and was also a 2018 Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar.
Additionally, she made the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
After the initial shock, Dennis said she immediately began to wonder what her future would look like.
“My first thoughts were complete sadness, but also panic because I knew I was going to have to transfer,” Dennis said.
Hence, The U.K. native made the decision to transfer to Pepperdine University in California to continue her degree in sports psychology for her remaining two years of undergraduate schooling.
Like the others, Dennis said replacing her previous Florida Tech teammates is impossible and she will never forget her time with them.
“I’m mostly going to miss the great atmosphere at Florida Tech,” Dennis said. “We worked hard, we were competitive, and we all shared the same passion.”