A freshman participating in her first women’s college golf tournament is going to be nervous the first time. But, former Monona Grove High School athlete Klairissa O’Reilly-Dye kept the jitters under control and played three straight days of 18 holes at the Whitetail Golf Course near Colfax in her debut with UW-Stout to begin the 2019 fall season. It was a lot of golf to play from the onset, but she said the experience was easier after head coach Howie Samb paired the four freshman golfers with four seniors on the team.
“It was nice to have a senior walk me through the golf course and giving me hints on where to aim when playing certain holes,” O’Reilly-Dye said. “It was hard for the first three days. I was very thankful my grandma got me involved in summer tournaments. Otherwise, I would’ve been so sore, I wouldn’t have been able to move on day three.”
Her grandmother is Joni Dye, the executive director of First Tee, a group for younger people interested in taking up golf and learning life lessons from the game. O’Reilly-Dye got her start in First Tee, and from the beginning, it was apparent her talent was going to take her places.
She qualified for her first WIAA Division 1 state tournament at University Ridge as an MG junior in 2017 and ended with a 36-hole total of 169 to finish tied for 25th.
As a senior, she returned to state and ended up 17th with a 164.
During the fall season at UW-Stout, she played all 12 of the team’s events. After early rounds in the upper 80s, O’Reilly-Dye saw her score start to gradually drop into the low 80s. Last September, she carded a 79 at the St. Catherine’s Invitational at The Wilds Golf Course in Prior Lake, Minnesota. She had a 77 and finished 12th overall in the Oct. 6 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship at the Reedsburg Country Club as the Blue Devils team took second place.
O’Reilly-Dye was selected the WIAC Women’s Golf Newcomer of the Year and was also recognized for her excellent grades in the classroom.
While O’Reilly-Dye is grateful for the guidance provided by MG girls golf coaches Kim Hauck and Matt Andrenga, she also gives a lot of credit to Samb with helping improve her game. His approach to golf centers around the psychological aspect.
“When we hit a bad shot and keep thinking about it, it could lead us down a path where it could affect our next shot and our next hole. He is very positive,” O’Reilly-Dye said. “He is very good at making sure we didn’t hold on to anything negative. We just try to let go and keep pushing forward.”
Samb said adjustments to her swing helped O’Reilly-Dye make gradual improvement.
“At about the midpoint in the season, the technical aspects of Klaire’s swing that we were working on started to feel comfortable to her,” said Samb, in a UW-Stout Athletics online feature. “Her confidence grew and the combination of those things made her feel comfortable that she indeed belonged in college golf.”
Of course, not every shot is going to turn out as planned, but O’Reilly-Dye said her Blue Devils teammates have been there to offer support.
“The nice thing about college is if I did poorly, my teammates could still lift me up,” she said. “They tried to help me think logically about it and execute properly and use those ideas in my next practices so I could get better.”
With the spring golf season cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus, O’Reilly-Dye said she will be working out, staying in shape and participating in more summertime tournaments.
Last summer, before starting at UW-Stout, she did some coaching for PGA member Bill Kokott. Many of her students were high schoolers not much younger than her.
“Most are very open minded, and they appreciate hearing insights from someone a little older,” O’Reilly-Dye said. “I’m starting to get a knack for it.”
With her first year of college golf in the books, O’Reilly-Dye considered her first year at UW-Stout to be an enjoyable and educational experience.
“Golf is less individualistic than I thought it was. I really grew to appreciate the team aspect,” O’Reilly-Dye said. “There is an underlying aspect of rooting for each other. I really find that comforting during tournaments.”