The COVID-19 pandemic affected the NAU golf team a lot more than just postponing of the season. Students had the choice to continue their education in Flagstaff, but many international students, such as junior Elle Kocourkova, were unable to make it back to the United States for school.
Kocourkova returned to her home in Hřebeč, Czech Republic when the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020. The Big Sky Conference canceled all spring 2020 athletic competition at that time. Like many student-athletes, Kocourkova watched her sophomore season vanish right in front of her.
On Aug. 13, 2020, the Big Sky suspended all fall 2020 athletics.
“I knew it was going to be tough if we had a season because I knew we have so many international players that probably wouldn’t be able to get here,” NAU golf head coach Brad Bedortha said.
Kocourkova said this gave her a difficult choice to make.
“I was trying to decide if I was going to come back to the U.S. or stay here [Czech Republic], and when the season got canceled, I was pretty sure I was going to stay here,” Kocourkova said.
She explained being away from the team and not being a part of in-person practices brought their own challenges — one of which was practicing by herself.
“There is no one pushing forward to do things like go to the gym or the golf course,” Kocourkova said. “When I am actually on the golf course, I can spend the time really well.”
However, while being away from the team, she hasn’t been completely alone at practice. Kocourkova is a coach for players ranging from ages 15 to 18 in the Czech Republic.
She normally holds three lessons a day, but due to winter approaching and COVID-19 restrictions, she is coaching just five lessons a week.
“They really listen to me and really want to get better,” Kocourkova said. “It’s very rewarding when I can teach something that I love to do and I can see that they love it, too.”
Although school has been completely online for her, she finds ways to stay busy throughout her day. She said school hasn’t been as difficult as she thought being away from campus.
Kocourkova said she begins her day with online classes, then hits the golf course. In the afternoon, her days tend to be routine. She said she makes her days less repetitive by staying in contact with her friends.
Whether she was playing golf with her friends or binge-watching shows on Netflix, her days did not change much because the golf courses stayed open throughout the pandemic. She said this allowed her to continue to stay in touch with her game.
During the summer, she played in three tournaments to stay in shape for the approaching spring season. Although she was still competing, it wasn’t the same without the team and being away from the team in Flagstaff.
“I am really excited for the different schedule of my day because right now I can do whatever I want and I am the boss of my day,” Kocourkova said. “When I get back, everything will be planned and scheduled. I will know exactly what I will be doing in January and February.”
With a new year here and spring sports on the horizon, NAU golf is currently prepping for a season that is scheduled to begin Feb. 15 at the Rebel Beach Intercollegiate in Las Vegas.