Armed with a Big 12 Conference title and five NCAA Championships appearances, sixth-year University of Texas head women's golf coach Martha Richards has displayed her prowess for building nationally-acclaimed teams. Richards is poised for another standout season in 2012-13 with a returning nucleus of four starters and a deep roster of underclassmen that will immediately compete for playing time.
After winning the season-opening Texas A&M `Mo' Morial in fall 2011, Richards guided the Longhorns to their first title at the Texas-hosted Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational since 1999. A pair of upperclassmen in senior Nicole Vandermade and junior Madison Pressel finished first and second, respectively, to close UT's most successful fall season in the last decade. The Longhorns closed the championship spring season with late surges at the 2012 Big 12, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championships to result in a tie for 13th place on the national stage - marking Richards' best finish on the Forty Acres.
The Longhorns experienced their awaited breakthrough under Richards at the 2011 Big 12 Championship when they claimed Texas' first tournament victory in seven years with a three-stroke margin over rival Texas A&M. With calming assurance and first-class guidance from Richards throughout the 54-hole event, a then-sophomore Pressel became the second individual champion in school history with a Big 12 Championship record-setting score of 8-under-par 208, and she went on to be named the 2011 Big 12 Conference Women's Golf Player of the Year after finishing the season as the highest ranked individual in the league.
In 2010, Richards led a resurgence of `Texas Swagger' as her team recorded five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, including back-to-back third place efforts at the Big 12 Championship and NCAA West Regional Championships. During the pivotal third year of Richards' reign, the Longhorns etched their names into the annals for both team and individual records. Then-freshman Pressel fired a Texas single-round record of 6-under 65 on the first day of the 2009 Stanford Intercollegiate, while the squad carded a school-record 5-under 279 in the same round.
Richards' impact was seen immediately after she arrived in Austin prior to the 2007-08 season, as UT made its first appearance at the NCAA Championship since 2004, and then again in 2009 when Texas advanced to the National Championship as a No. 17 seed, becoming the lowest-ranked team to advance out of the NCAA West Regional Championship after tying for fourth place.
Prior to arriving in Austin, Richards spent seven years as the head coach at Vanderbilt University. She led the Commodores to two NCAA Top-10 finishes and mentored seven All-Americans. Eight Vandy players garnered 18 All-SEC honors and 23 were All-SEC Academic Team selections.
Coming into a program that had never advanced to the NCAA Championship, the Wisconsin native quickly turned the tables and took the Commodores to the postseason four times over seven seasons. Richards' time in Nashville was highlighted by capturing the 2004 SEC title en route to a program-best fifth-place finish at the NCAA's. Richards was lauded with the Golfweek National Coach of the Year and SEC Coach of the Year honors following that season.
Richards' ability to bring in quality players and instantly help them improve is one of the main strengths of her program. Student-athletes competing for Richards are able to rely on her to continually develop their games. Prior to the 2009-10 season, five Texas golfers saw their scoring averages improve from the previous season, while two recorded their highest career tournament finish.
Richards took over the helm of the UT program on June 12, 2007, replacing Susan Watkins who had served in the position for 14 seasons. But she was no stranger to Austin as she was the UT assistant coach from Feb. 1998-2000. During Richards' first stint in Austin, she helped UT to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championship in 1998. The following year, Texas placed ninth at the NCAAs and second at the Big 12 Championship with All-Big 12 selections Laura Blessy, Kristin Dufour and Randi Meadows.
"Martha has steadily brought our women's golf team to championship contender form," Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky said. "Her players reflect the very best qualities -- competitiveness, class, sportsmanship and dedication. We appreciate the relationships that Martha, her staff and players have worked to maintain among those who care deeply about the Texas Women's Golf program. We have one of the storied programs in the game and a coach who is devoted to making her players improve as well as teaching them lessons for life."
Richards was a rare two-sport athlete at her alma mater, Stanford University, excelling in golf and basketball. She earned All-America honors from the National Golf Coaches Association in 1993, All-Pac-10 Conference honors and was later named to the Pac-10 All-Decade Golf Team for the 1990s. Richards also came to The Farm as the 1988 National High School Basketball Player of the Year and helped the Cardinal to the NCAA title in 1990. She was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in October 2010.
After completing her collegiate career, Richards served as a volunteer assistant golf coach at Stanford before playing on the LPGA tour from 1995 to 1996. In 1997, she became a teaching professional at the Jim McLean Golf Academy, where she was involved with the Executive Women's Golf Association and oversaw the instruction at the LPGA Junior Girls Club.