A near historic invitational leaves a Wildcat honored


Chico State Women’s golfer Taylor Stewart all smiles on the golf course. Photo courtesy of Chico State Sports Information.

It isn’t very often that a Chico State women’s golfer earns “Women’s Golfer of the Week.” In fact, junior Wildcat Taylor Stewart is the first to collect such recognition in the program’s history. 

At the Western Washington University Invitational, Stewart was not only great, she was almost historic. Shooting one-over par with a total of 145 strokes, it was her best collegiate finish as a Wildcat. She nearly knocked off Chico State alum Emily Rotter who’s program best, 144 strokes, was sitting with bated breath.

A 2019 graduate from Oakdale High School, Stewart was a league MVP twice, All-District Girl’s Golfer of the Year in 2017 and a champion. Her early resume parallels with her now unfinished and impressive college play.

The Mustang-turned-Wildcat has quietly earned herself recognition both athletically and academically in her time at Chico State. As a true freshman, she was an All-CCAA Honorable Mention and has since received All Academic Honors every year since 2019. 

After searching for the school that would be best suited for her, Stewart narrowed down her final two schools to the University of Redlands and Chico State. The Wildcats had the edge over the private institution for a few reasons. Both her parents attended Chico State, along with her cousin who ran track here. However, maybe even more important than family ties to the school was getting the opportunity to play under Heather Fegley. Fegley would go on to be Stewart’s first female coach in all of her time playing golf. 

“It definitely provides a different experience, so that was one of the things that was exciting for me because the other school had a male coach,” Stewart said. 

Just like Stewart, Fegley, who was handed the keys to the program at just 26 years old, never saw someone who looked like her pilot any of her golf teams. This is until she became a Wildcat herself in 2010. 

“I learned a lot from the experience and believe it shaped me into the kind of coach I wanted to be,” Fegley said. “I stepped into the role of head coach when I was only 26-years-old and have learned so much through a lot of trial and error.”

From youth sports to high school to college, from all male coaches to Fegley, the surrounding game remains the same. It’s Stewart, her clubs, her backswing that needs to be near perfect when teeing off and her mind. The last piece of the equation being the one that can sabotage the rest if you don’t control it. 

Taylor Stewart teeing off on the course at a golf invitational. Photo courtesy of Chico State Sports Information.

That’s why it’s no surprise Stewart has been cementing herself in the program since day one, saying that she enjoys putting that pressure on herself because she wants to make herself proud when the results begin to vouch for the work she has put in. That’s why it’s no surprise that Fegley echoed that same confidence and “swagger” Stewart walks around with. 

“Taylor’s greatest strength has always been her mental game and it continues to improve year after year,” Fegley said. “She walks her talk and I believe her teammates respect and look up to her for that.” 

Stewart is a student of the game, she has to be. You don’t just walk onto the course and expect to have the sort of play she has without the effort, discipline and attention to detail. In those same characteristics for her sport, lies the reason for her accomplishments in the classroom as well. The academic achievements seem to outweigh the athletic awards, maybe those aren’t as eye-catching and Instagram story worthy, but it’s because it is what she expects out of herself. 

“I’ve always done well in school so for me that’s just expected, but getting recognized for my athletic performance is sort of that cherry on top,” Stewart said. 

For her, good grades are a must. The term student-athlete, however, is a difficult one to live up to for many. It’s why Fegley doesn’t understate the value of Stewart’s balance of the two. 

“Taylor’s ability to excel academically and athletically is a tremendous feat and not one that too many student-athletes can achieve,” Fegley said. “She truly embodies what it means to be a student-athlete.”

Many can’t, but Fegley can and she did. In her time at Chico State, Fegley has made the most of her education, twice earning Dean’s List distinction and representing the department of sociology at the Dean’s Cup Academic Competition. 

Stewart said she’s planning on making the spring season her final year, but before she goes on to “live life as a normal person” as she puts it, her goal is to win a tournament. Knocking on the door of the last two, Stewart’s as close one can be. That hunger and burning desire to win is deeply rooted in the women’s golf culture, in a sport that is merciless, where some days you don’t have it and others you can’t be rattled. It shows true character, it shows how much you want to stick with it. 

Stewart did nothing short but leave it all out on the course in the tournament that ascended her into the record books of the program. 

“I definitely teared up during the second round of the WWU Fall Invite at Bellingham G&CC as I was watching Taylor battle it out for the individual title,” Fegley said. “When they announced she was the first ever Chico State Women’s Golfer to receive the CCAA Athlete of the Week, I was absolutely overjoyed.” 

There is a unique culture within this program. There is a woman at the helm of the team, making it one that can attract players — just as it did for Stewart and Fegley all those years ago. It is a culture where education is just as valued as a tournament win. It is a culture in which the players and coach strive to show up as the best version of themselves and improve for one another. It is a culture where egos are put aside, letting confidence and calmness give way to the swagger needed to thrive. It’s where success of this kind is seldom yet always celebrated. 

Mason Tovani can be reached at [email protected]