Sept. 13, 2010
H. Stephens Photo Gallery
Texas Women's Golf sophomore Haley Stephens fired a 1-over-par 73 in the opening round of the NCAA Fall Preview on Monday, Sept. 13. With the team-best round, it appears Stephens is picking up just where she left off in her freshman season - with team-best finishes at the 2010 NCAA West Regional Championship (T-3rd) and NCAA Championship (T-33rd).
TexasSports.com caught up with Stephens following her round to find out how she has been preparing during the off-season for her sophomore campaign and her expectations in the coming year.
Q. You had a great round to begin the season. What was going well for you on the course?
A. A lot of chip shots. I've been working with (head coach) Martha and (volunteer assistant coach) Kate on knowing how to hit my shots from the rough the last few weeks. I think I also have a good feel for the speed of the greens here, and I've felt confident over all of my putts. I haven't worried too much about hitting too soft or hard, and that's been key. But overall, I'd say that knowing how to hit my shots out of the rough has been the biggest advantage here.
Q. What was the off-season like for you? Did you focus on anything in particular?
A. This summer I worked on a lot of everything, but focused the most on the timing of my swing. Leaving Texas in May, I didn't change too much of my routine. I kept up with my nutrition and working out, and then tweaked my swing and mechanics. I've found that the simple stuff goes the furthest, so I focused on that.
Q. This is the first time you have played Traditions Club. How do the practice rounds help you prepare for competition?
A. Having Kate (Golden) has been a big asset. We've broken down the greens and really figured out where we want to ideally hit each shot. With all of her years on the LPGA, Kate has great insight into reading greens and she's really helped us look at each green from all angles. Getting a feel for the greens is always one of the most important things we work on during any practice round during the season.
Q. This course will also be the site of the 2011 NCAA Women's Golf Championship. Is it playing like a championship-caliber course this week?
A. For sure. The rough around the greens is already pretty tough, and if they grow it up around the fairways for the national championship, it will make it crucial to keep the ball in the fairways in May. There were low scores out there today, but this is definitely a championship-level course and a few changes could really make it play more difficult.
Q. How did you feel coming into this tournament? Were you confident with where your game was?
A. I felt good coming into this tournament. We had four qualify rounds back in Austin and plenty of time to prepare. Coach and I have spent some time on my swing, too, and that helped my confidence. I felt very prepared coming here.
Q. This week's field boasts 13 teams that played in the 2010 NCAA Championship. Is it daunting knowing you're starting the season in one of the toughest fields of the year?
A. It actually makes us want to play harder. We know this is the best field in the country, and we want to play our best and see where we stack up. The competitive rush kicks in and it's exciting.
Q. Are you enjoying your role as a sophomore in this young lineup rather than as a freshman last season?
A. I kind of like the role of knowing what to expect this year. There's a lot of little stuff that you learn by experience in your freshman year that no one really warns you about. I think we feel better about our surroundings as a sophomore class. Rebecca (Lee-Bentham) is still learning the ways, but we're helping her out where we can. It's fresh to all of us since we just went through it, so we're keeping her on her feet.
Q. Is it too early to set expectations for this year, or have you already spent some time identifying personal and team goals?
A. Expectations are a great thing to have, and we aren't afraid to set them this early in the season. We obviously want to play well in the spring when everything leads up to the Big 12 Conference and NCAA Championship. My immediate expectations, though, are to go low the next few days and make a move up the leaderboard.