The COVID-19 pandemic ended the collegiate seasons of Taylor and Ellen McCorkle, but both are back in the area working on their respective crafts.
Taylor McCorkle is a rising senior and member of the women’s golf team at Division I North Dakota State. Ellen McCorkle is a rising junior and member of the women’s basketball team at Division II Lindenwood University.
Mental-led approach leads McCorkle to new heights
During her prep days, Taylor McCorkle often found herself atop or high up leaderboards because of her strength and natural ability.
Now, the 2017 Oregon High School graduate is navigating golf courses by executing shots that are thoughtfully planned out. Once focused more on power, McCorkle has benefited from improved iron play and an improved short game in her first three years at North Dakota State University.
“I’ve focused a lot on course strategy and where to place the ball,” she said. “Throughout high school and my freshman year, I wanted to hit driver every hole and be as aggressive as possible, and I figured out that wasn’t the best way to play.”
McCorkle has also relied on family experience to improve her game. Her father Bill played golf at Wisconsin, and her older sister Morgan played at Division III powerhouse St. Thomas.
“I’m lucky I come from a good family that’s been really helpful,” Taylor McCorkle said. “I rely on my dad a lot. He’s been really good in helping me with course management and strategy, and I’ve been able to learn what works and what doesn’t work in women’s college golf from my older sister.”
McCorkle was a four-year varsity letterwinner and a three-time all-Badger South Conference performer and all-state honoree at Oregon. She was the conference player of the year as a senior, when she shot 2-under par 70 to earn medalist honors at regionals before finishing runner-up at sectionals. The team captain tied for 11th individually at the 2016 WIAA Division 1 state tournament while helping the Panthers take fifth as a team.
McCorkle gained the attention of college recruiters through her play in the summer. She twice qualified for the National Junior PGA Championship and was the Wisconsin Junior PGA Player of the Year in 2016 after winning the league’s premier tournament.
A runner-up finish at the 2017 Wisconsin Junior PGA Championship helped jump-start her collegiate career.
McCorkle was second on the team and ninth in The Summit League with a 76.23 stroke average in 31 rounds as a freshman at NDSU. She recorded four top-10 finishes in 11 events and was named to the All-Tournament Team after tying for fourth at the league tournament.
McCorkle was voted second-team all-conference after a breakout sophomore campaign. She led the Bison in stroke average (76.28) and recorded three top-5 finishes and four top-10’s. Her first collegiate win came at Iowa’s Diane Thompson Invitational, and she set school records for lowest single round (65) and two-round score (141) en route to medalist honors at Southern Utah’s Lady Thunderbird Invitational.
McCorkle once again led the Bison in stroke average (76.2) over 15 rounds as a junior. She currently ranks third in school history in career stroke average (76.24).
North Dakota State competed in six events before the NCAA announced March 12 that all remaining winter and spring championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bison had five tournaments wiped out, including the Summit League Championship scheduled for April 26-28.
McCorkle prepping for bigger role at Lindenwood
For months, Ellen McCorkle hasn’t been able to get in a gym to work on her jump shot with teammates.
McCorkle – a 2018 Oregon High School graduate – has been in Oregon with her family during the “Safer at Home” order. She’s been working on her shot at parks in her hometown, and is looking forward to being back on campus in St. Charles, Missouri.
“I’m so excited to see all of my teammates and friends,” she said. “I can’t wait to get back on a basketball court inside.”
The Lions went 19-9 last season and finished third (14-6) in their inaugural season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Lindenwood joined the GLVC last year after seven years in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The eighth-seeded Lions were scheduled to play top-seeded Drury in the Midwest Regional of the D-II Tournament, but the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships on March 12.
“I was upset,” McCorkle said. “We were all disappointed because we didn’t get a chance to show what we could do. We had scouted them and I think we had a good chance of beating them the third time playing them.”
The 6-foot-3 McCorkle has been completing Zoom training workouts with an assistant coach from Lindenwood. Most of her workouts are based on shooting drills and weightlifting.
“In high school, I was able to shoot over a lot of people,” she said. “In college, I have had to learn to play through people and finish better.”
McCorkle averaged 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 23 games as a sophomore. She shot 36.5% (19-for-52) from 3-point range.
“I have really worked on my 3-point shot,” she said. “I got in the gym (last year) and got more reps at them for muscle memory. In high school, I passed a lot of those shots up. My coach now is telling me to take it.”
McCorkle was a first team all-Badger South Conference selection her junior and senior year at Oregon. She said two of the biggest adjustments of playing at the Division II level are the physicality and speed of the game.
“Estella Moschkau (Edgewood graduate who transferred to the University of Wisconsin from Stanford) and McKenna Warnock (Monona Grove graduate at Iowa) were both great players in the conference,” McCorkle said. “Now, (in college) all of the girls are like that and have a high basketball IQ.”
McCorkle scored a career-high 16 points and drilled four 3s in a win at McKendree on Feb. 15. She had seven points and five rebounds in the Lions’ final game of the season – a 89-67 loss to Drury in the GLVC Tournament semifinals.
With the graduation of several seniors, McCorkle is preparing to carry a heavier load. She could be in the starting mix as a junior.
“No spot is guaranteed,” she said. “I would like to think I have worked hard enough to earn a spot. During the quarantine, I did a lot of running because that was the one thing I could do to stay in shape.”