Women's Golf triumphs as team at Betsy Rawls
Nov. 2, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Wednesday felt a lot like May in November, and the Texas Longhorns certainly like the prospects.
With fall temperatures peeking into the 80’s and a balmy southern breeze unearthing every nasty nook and cranny of The University of Texas Golf Club, the Texas Women’s Golf team found a way to persevere with class at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, outwitting Tulsa, Florida and Pepperdine for the tournament team title.
The triumph caps a fall season that saw the Longhorns win a pair of team titles and finish no worse than 10th in the Longhorns’ four events.
Through its 38 years, the Betsy Rawls has come to be known as one of the most distinguished and competitive on the college schedule. In fact, on four previous occasions teams that won the Betsy later went on the win the NCAA team title later that spring -- most recently Duke in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
And the Longhorns staked claim to their seventh overall victory in their annual home tournament, and first since 1999, thanks to the competitiveness that exists within their own roster. Senior Nicole Vandermade overcame a four-stroke deficit in the final round to win the individual championship for the first victory of her collegiate career, just one stroke ahead of teammate Madison Pressel.
Vandermade finished at 2-under, while Pressel took second place alone at 1-under.
“I think they are confident,” head coach Martha Richards said of her team. “I think that comes from the fact we have done a lot of great work over the years. We can now trust that work. When you trust your work and play well, confidence is a by-product of good performance.”
Lighting the Tower, UT’s renowned campus landmark, remains the forthright and stated goal of Richards’ Longhorns.
They tasted that success last May, after UT won its first Big 12 team tournament title since 2004, but lighting it orange with a No. 1 aglow on the side for a national championship remains the ultimate glory. After all, that’s why Richards came to Texas in 2007 and what lured national prospects like Vandermade and Pressel to the Forty Acres.
“I came here to build this program,” Pressel said. “We have all done such a great job and worked so well together to make that dream happen. This win brings a lot of confidence to our team.”
And confidence might have been the determining factor in Vandermade’s climb up the leaderboard for the individual victory. Despite bogeys on Nos. 12 and 16 that threatened to derail her charge, Vandermade clinched her jaw and battled for a birdie on the closing hole to turn in a 3-under 69.
Throughout a 54-hole event, it’s almost impossible to identify one singular shot that defines a tournament, but for Vandermade it just may have been her play on the fourth tee box during Tuesday’s second round. Vandermade is blessed with a high-arcing ball flight and length off the tee, and she chose a 4-iron to attack the par 4.
With a fairway that slopes right to left into a canyon of trees, it’s a dauntingly narrow eye line from the tee box, though still tempting to pull driver and flirt with the green. Vandermade, however, chose to lay back in the fairway and then had just a short iron into the green. The approached settled within 10 feet, and she rolled in the birdie putt.
That hole showcased a more mature Vandermade, one who is willing to play the course to her strengths -- not the other way around.
“It feels amazing to win. It has been a long time coming,” Vandermade said. “I've been working really hard. I knew my game was there.”