Wichita State Shockers

WSU notes: Taryn Torgerson fearlessly changes putting grip, wins MVC title

In late March, Wichita State golfer Taryn Torgerson revamped her putting technique. While it wasn’t quite a desperation move, she gave herself only two tournaments to perfect it before the Missouri Valley Conference Championships.

Tight deadline for such an important piece of the game.

“I kept telling (coaches) that I feel like I’m really close,” she said. “’But I’m not making putts. If can just make some putts I think it’s going be scary what I can do to help this team.’”

Two tournaments of practice turned out to be plenty for Torgerson, a sophomore from Buhler. She won the MVC tournament, her first tournament title, on Tuesday in Chicago, carding a 214 for her best 54-hole score and finishing one shot up for medalist honors. Eleven birdies helped her record the second-lowest score in tournament history.

Always a long hitter, the improvement in her short game boosted her game in college and the new putting technique paid off at Harborside International Golf Center.

She switched to a longer putter, 38 inches, and separated her hands, moving her right down down, by about six inches to cut down on her wrist action and keep the face of the putter stable. After much experimentation, she settled on a technique that works, even if it looks a bit awkward.

“As long as the ball goes in hole, I don’t care,” she said. “The first couple days that I worked with it, it felt really weird. But I could tell when I was doing it that I had a lot better chance of those putts going in.”

Torgerson finished 14th in the first tournament after changing the technique. She finished fifth in the next tournament to show the improvement leading up to the MVC Championships.

“There are very, very few players who have the confidence in themselves and the trust in their coach to be able to do that at that time,” WSU coach Tom McCurdy said. “That was the only reason she was able to manage that — she’s got such a good learning attitude. When she got up to the ball and it was square, she would make a good putting stroke and it rolled where she wanted it to.”

Torgerson finished in the top 10 of one fall tournament and two earlier in the spring. Putting, both she and coaches believed, stood in the way of better finishes.

“She had been hitting the ball really well, giving herself good opportunities,” McCurdy said. “But she wasn’t converting. It was just enough to rattle her confidence a bit.”

McCurdy dissected her mechanics and they settled on separating her hands to quiet her wrists. Once putts began to fall, her short game improved.

“It was all in my head that I can’t make putts and I can’t get up and down,” she said.

The MVC title qualifies WSU for one of four NCAA regional sites. The Shockers, one of 72 teams in the field, will learn their destination at 5 p.m. Monday when the Golf Channel televises the selection show.

▪  WSU men’s team is favored to win its MVC tournament, earning all nine first-place votes from coaches.

The tournament begins Monday at Hutchinson’s Prairie Dunes Country Club and ends Tuesday.

The Shockers have won eight straight Valley titles and 14 of the past 17.

Quick in the middle — Wichita State volleyball player Katy Dudzinski is a 6-foot-2 middle blocker, which rarely gives her a size advantage. Her advantage is speed, and to use that speed to get more swings she needs to be properly positioned.

“To get more attempts, basically you’re just working harder,” she said. “You have to read where the pass is going to be. You have to read where the blockers are going to be. My problem was that I was kind of guessing a lot in the fall. Then I would not be very confident in my decisions.”

Dudzinski, as a junior last season, averaged 3.2 attempts a set. Her inexperience at the position kept her from finding the right openings and setters looked elsewhere for points. WSU coach Chris Lamb uses his middles more than most coaches and he would like Dudzinski to double her attempts.

WSU used the two-setter offense almost exclusively during spring practices, which ended earlier this month. That puts Dudzinski close to the setter, which puts her in better positions to score.

“I’ve really upped my attempts,” she said. “I’m pretty fast and … (those plays) really allow me to use my speed to my advantage in the gaps. That’s why I have progressed a lot this spring.”

Dudzinski moved to the middle last spring after playing on the pins her entire career, in part because a career-ending foot injury suffered by freshman Rylea Kilburn left Lamb short on middles. The year of experience helps Dudzinski read blockers and work with setters with more precision.

“She’s powerful and she’s got an amazing motor,” Lamb said. “She wants it so bad and I’m super happy for her.”

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop