Being part of a family means caring, sharing and nurturing. For sophomore golfer Julia Best, these attributes come without effort. Those three words describe the personality she brought with her when she stepped on campus in the fall of 2003. It is that personality, which was molded in her hometown of Bulverde, Texas, that has endeared her to teammates and coaches.
"If there is one thing you can count on with Julia, it is her smile," explained senior Perry Swenson. "She is always the first one to give you encouragement when you need it."
Fellow-sophomore Ashley Prust shared a living space with Best during their first year in Austin and got to see all of that personality.
"We are complete opposites," joked Prust. "Our strengths and weaknesses balanced out and it really helped us a lot. We fed off each other."
Now a sophomore, Best understands what it is like to transition into being a college student as well as a college athlete. The freshmen on this year's squad have certainly benefited from her understanding.
"She is a leader for us," said freshman Brittany Givilancz.
"She makes sure we are okay and are staying on top of things," added freshman Kelley Louth.
But where did she get this personality? As you may have guessed, it is the family she came from in Bulverde that has turned her into such a pleasant young lady. And, as Best prepares to play in her first Big 12 Championship, her family has made the hour and a half drive to share in the various banquets during the week and then be there to support her during the weekend.
"We are very close," Best said with a smile. "It is so amazing to have them here this week. I talk with my dad a couple of times a day and I have long conversations with my mom. It is just very special for them to be here."
The Best family has grown even closer over the last year. During that time, they have seen the passing of her grandmother in August and the birth of her brother, Jasper, on January 22.
"I really believe that Jasper was sent to us for my grandfather and mother," explained Best. "I love him so much and I am always telling him that even though he didn't get to meet his grandmother, he'll feel like he knows her."
Best believes that the events of the past year have not only helped her grow as a person, but have also made her a better golfer.
"I've come to realize that golf isn't my entire life," explained Best. "In turn, I think that has helped me play better because I'm able to let go of the negatives and just keep the positives coming."
Her new outlook has helped increase her productivity on the course. She has already played in six tournaments this season, two more than in her freshman year, and her scoring average has dropped by almost four strokes. The entire team has witnessed the change.
"She walks tall," said head coach Susan Watkins. "She carries herself in a way that shows she is ready to get something done. I've really noticed the change this spring as far as her game is concerned. She was really on at the Arizona State tournament and now it is a matter of her relaxing and just hitting it."
"She's always had the game," added Swenson. "Throughout the summer, she put in a lot of hours and she gained a lot of confidence."
Her work ethic has rubbed off on some of the others as well.
"She's so intense during practice," stated senior Lisa Ferrero. "It makes all of us work harder on the course."
But, the biggest impact Best has had is not on her teammates' game, but on their lives. Whether it is taking them home over the holidays or just making sure she has some candy to sweeten their days, Best has taken the values that make her family in Bulverde so special and applied them to her new family in Austin.