Foundation growing strong for Women's Golf
May 17, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
Haley Stephens actually got better on the golf course after she just ended one of her worst rounds ever. She concluded the final day of the Peg Barnard Invitational back in February in Palo Alto, Calif., with an uninspiring 82.
Stephens saw it as a low point.
"To me, that was not Texas Golf," Stephens said.
Her stern resolve came full circle two weeks ago at the NCAA West Regional, on that very same Stanford Golf Course. Stephens turned in a final-round, 3-under 68 - the best of her career to highlight a tie for third place individual finish.
The Longhorns enjoyed similar consistent momentum, placing third in the regional to advance to this week's NCAA Championships at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C. Teams had to finish in the top eight to move on, and UT was coming off a tame third place finish at the conference championship.
"We wanted to make people aware that we are Texas, and we're here to play good golf," Stephens said. "We have some great players, and we can post some low scores. We wanted people to take notice."
This marks UT's third straight appearance at the national tournament in three years of guidance under head coach Martha Richards. Freshmen Stephens, Madison Pressel and Desiree Dubreuil, sophomore Nicole Vandermade and senior Shannon Fish will represent the Longhorns this week.
With a lineup weighted by youth -- UT has started four freshmen and a sophomore at some tournaments this year - Richards has had to be fluid with her teaching style.
"I've really tried to stay open, and listen to the kids," Richards said. "I wanted to help them adapt. When the core of your team is freshmen, that's different because you have so many different new experiences. It will be fun to watch this group continue to develop in competitive environments."
Pressel has been a steady force for Richards all season. Twenty-eight of her 31 tournament rounds have counted toward the team cumulative score, and Pressel's scoring average is second on the team.
When told that her five top-25 finishes leads the team, Pressel was amused but not for long.
"I've been playing golf for nine years. Whether you're a freshman or senior, you should be able to play your game," Pressel said. "I was ready to play right away. I wasn't waiting around. I wanted to start well right off the bat."
The accountability that Pressel demonstrates is a main teaching point for Richards, especially with so many young players.
"They came here, and my job is to make them get better," Richards said.
And Richards has a group of players around her that takes to that mindset.
"When we're all playing consistently, I think that's when it sparks," Stephens said. "We all want to be on that leaderboard. We are a young team, but we have a lot of grind out there."