The New Mexico women’s team does not resemble the one that strolled the fairways this past fall. Junior Ashley Rollins and senior Christine Fernandez departed the program after last semester, leaving New Mexico with five players for the remainder of the year.
Rollins – the Lobos’ second-ranked player at No. 78 in the Golfweek/ Sagarin College Rankings – told coach Jackie Booth that she wanted to return home to Austin, Texas, and Fernandez, ranked 186th, told Booth she wanted to concentrate more on individual golf than the team game. She returned home to Las Vegas. Neither was given a release, and thus cannot compete for a year.
Because Fernandez is a senior and transferred to New Mexico from Tennessee, her college career is over.
Rollins, the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2004, won’t have much eligibility left either when she decides what her future holds.
“Both situations were a loss-loss for everyone,” said Booth, whose team is ranked 24th. “Very unfortunate circumstances.”
The Lobos, however, aren’t hanging their heads. They’re too young to know they’re not supposed to compete with the nation’s elite.
Leading the way is freshman Mikaela Backstedt, who is lucky to be in the lineup. The Swede was participating in a pilates class in December and dropped a 25-pound weight on her thumb, breaking it in two places.
Although she had three pins inserted to help the hand heal, Backstedt, at No. 16 one of the top freshman in the country, returned to the Wildcat Invitational last month in Arizona and tied for 11th after a final-round 68.
“It was like she didn’t miss a beat,” Booth said. “We were glad to have her back and we were thrilled with the results. For her to play that well out of the gate was great.”
New Mexico lacks upper-class experience. The Lobos’ remaining four players are freshmen Py Bengtsson and Morgan Grantham and sophomores Alexandra Phelps and Giselle Claux.
Booth, however, still has high expectations, noting that one of the least successful regular-season squads during her tenure was her most successful at the NCAA Championship (a tie for eighth in 1998). The next two months will be preparation for what the Lobos hope will be a successful May.
“To get this much experience this young is great for them,” Booth said. “They are very supportive of one another. What we don’t have is pure leadership, someone there to tell them what not to do. But they’re all learning together.”