Haley Elenbaas (jr) and glue have something in common. They both keep things together.
Elenbaas plays for Indiana Wesleyan University’s women’s golf team, the university’s newest intercollegiate squad. The team is just over two years old, with its inaugural season in the fall of 2012. Elenbaas was one of the six freshman golfers who made up Head Coach Julie Wagner’s team that fall.
When Wagner first met Elenbaas in the spring of 2012, she knew Elenbaas would play an important role for her team.
“Haley was playing No. 2 on her high school team, and she played pretty well,” Wagner said. “One of the last things she said to me before she left [for the day] was, ‘I know I’m not a really great golfer, but I’ll work hard and I’ll be a good spiritual leader for your team.’ It just kind of grabbed me.”
Unfortunately, the team still struggled in its first season. With all six of its fall golfers being freshmen, the team lacked upperclassmen leadership. Wagner had also never coached golf before.
“We were all freshmen, we had no idea what to do in college,” Elenbaas said.
Three of the original six golfers are no longer on the team, but three remain: Jessica Pegg (jr), Jessica Meloche (jr) and Elenbaas.
As the team grew more accustomed to college life and athletics, Elenbaas’ leadership started to shine through, especially spiritually. Wagner said this fall was the first season she’s designated players as team leaders.
Who did she choose? Pegg, Meloche and, of course, Elenbaas.
“I can put [Elenbaas] in charge of something, and she’ll do it,” Wagner said. “Our team meets once a week for devotions, and she makes that happen. She makes sure everyone takes a turn to lead as well.”
Kelli Sewell (so) said since she joined the team last fall, she’s seen Elenbaas grow perfectly into her leadership role.
“I’ve seen her grow in sharing her faith, and also in her encouraging other girls to do things outside the course,” Sewell said.
The increased comfort level and accountability within the team has resulted in success on the course. This fall, the Wildcats qualified for the NCCAA National Championship Tournament for the first time in program history by winning the NCCAA Midwest Regional Tournament.
Elenbaas said she is happy with the team’s golfing success, but knows there’s a lot more to life than athletics.
“You have to keep God as your first priority, you have to keep school as your second priority and you need relationships with other people too,” Elenbaas said. “Golf can’t be your life — it’s important, it’s enjoyable and a good way to give glory to God, relieve stress and enjoy yourself, but it has to be number three.”
Carley LaPlant (fr) knows Elenbaas’ presence and mentality is a big reason the team has stuck together through the inevitably difficult first few years in a new athletic program.
“She’s a very good role model, person to look up to. You can go to her for anything, with school problems, whatever you need,” LaPlant said. “I describe her as like the glue that keeps the team together.”
This story is a part of Co-Editor-in-Chief Jared Johnson’s “Stars in the Background” series on overlooked stars in IWU athletics. For more information, click here.