Oklahoma State can’t hardly help winning the majority of the golf tournaments in which it competes. It’s a statement that used to apply mostly to the men – especially after a 2010-11 season in which the Cowboys won eight times – but after back-to-back, season-opening victories, it applies to the Cowgirls, as well. Perhaps it’s something in the water at Karsten Creek, but more likely it’s something deeper than that.
New women’s head coach Alan Bratton is quicker to point out what isn’t behind this phenomenon than what might be. Victories at the Dale McNamara Invitational on Sept. 14 and the latest single-shot win at the Windy City Intercollegiate on Oct. 4 were a product of hard work by his team, Bratton insists, and not some magic coaching strategy by him. He just helps his players realize their talent.
“I just try to help them see what they want to happen, believe in themselves and in each other and you never know what you might be able to do,” Bratton explains. “You might be able to come from behind like we did in the first tournament or lead wire-to-wire like we did this time.”
Oklahoma State had one win last season but was somewhat erratic in its finishes. OSU since has gained Bratton, an alumnus and former assistant men’s coach, transfers Kelsey Vines (BYU) and Amy Ruengmateekhun (SMU), and freshman Courtney Ferguson. The equation seems to be working.
“I told them after this first two that the thing that I liked the best was how well they were playing as a team,” Bratton said. “Everybody picking up for everybody else. That’s kind of the way we play. We’ve had different contributors every day and different girls step up and into contention in tournaments, and that’s what makes you a good team.”
Consider also Oklahoma State’s access to a first-rate playground in Karsten Creek and first-rate opponents in the university’s men’s team, and the Cowgirls’ success seems inevitable. With a chuckle, Bratton says he hopes his team’s perfect record so far this season can provide some motivation among the two teams. In two starts, the men’s team has finished second and third.
Senior Jocelyn Alford also talks of the perfect equation at Oklahoma State.
“That’s a huge benefit; it makes everyone better,” she said of playing with the men. “When you play with better players, you get better, and having them as a resource, you learn all sorts of tricks that usually you wouldn’t learn just hanging around women.”
On the course, she says players benefit from Bratton’s very laid-back coaching style as well as the knowledge that any player on the team could post a good number on any given day.
“We all trust that we can get it done.”
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For a good cause: Texas State won the Johnnie Imes Invitational on Oct. 4 with a 15-over 879 that is the best team total is program history. The Bobcats shaved eight shots from their previous team best.
But while Texas State finished seven shots ahead of runner-up Kansas State, the Wildcats claimed the trophy for most birdies, a secondary competition held in honor of breast-cancer awareness. For the third year, money was raised for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation through pledges, hole sponsorships and flat donations. Missouri women’s head coach Stephanie Priesmeyer said the event raised about $3,500, and some pledges still need to be collected. The event generated more than $9,000 total in the past two years.
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What: Tar Heel Invitational
When: Oct. 7-9
Where: UNC Finley Golf Course, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Why it’s important: The field features the best in the Southeast. Keep an eye on defending champion Alabama, a team that fell short of UCLA at the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview despite an eleventh-hour charge. Duke also showed promise at the Preview, but the real breakthrough performance this week might come from host North Carolina. The Tar Heels have lived up to their preseason No. 5 ranking with top-5 finishes in both starts this season. This squad certainly is talented enough to come out on top in its own backyard this week.
The results are in: Virginia head coach Kim Lewellen has been named the National Coach of the Year by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Teaching and Club Professional (T&CP) membership. Lewellen was chosen from a group of award winners from each of five regional sections.
Lewellen enters her fifth season at the helm of the Cavaliers after leading the team to a top-5 finish at the NCAA Championship last spring for the first time in program history.
“This award is especially meaningful because it is voted on by my colleagues,” Lewellen said. “I would not have had this opportunity without the support of the University of Virginia and the wonderful student-athletes that I am privileged to coach. These young ladies inspire me.”
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Five questions with Nebraska senior Madeleine Sheils, who won the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational on Oct. 5 for her first college victory:
1.) You climbed from fifth to first in the final round. Did you know what was happening on the leaderboard?
I had no idea. Our team wasn’t playing well, so I was not playing with any other leaders, and usually when I’m playing anyway, I don’t like to know how other people are doing. I just figure it probably won’t help anyway. Nobody told me anything and I didn’t know, but going into the day I kind of assumed I could see the leaders probably shooting around par again, so if I put together a low round I could have a chance. … As I started to play well, I guess it was kind of in the back of my mind.
2.) Where does Sahalee Country Club rate on the list of most difficult courses you’ve played?
It’s definitely up there, however I think the hard part about the golf course is how narrow it is, and it’s even very visually demanding because there’s huge walls of pine trees on every hole. One of the biggest strengths of my game is that I’m a straight hitter. … I think what was really difficult about the course was the undulation on the greens. I thought the pin placements were really difficult.
I could see how in the middle of the summer it could probably be one of the top-three hardest courses I’ve ever played, but given the conditions, it just played to my strengths. It was still probably top 10, it was still a championship venue.
3.) This is your first college victory. How does it compare to other highlights in your college and amateur career?
This is absolutely one of the top three moments of my career. There’s just nothing that compares to getting a win. I won a really big junior event, the Big I Junior Classic, right before my senior year (at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Idaho). Making it to the U.S. Am this summer and winning this are probably my top three moments. This was so awesome for me because it was in the Northwest, which is close to home. I had family and friends there, and it was just an awesome venue with a good field. Having your whole team there and doing it was a goal I wanted to accomplish for a while. Having your team there makes it that much more special.
4.) What part of your game have you developed the most since leaving your home in Boise and arriving at Nebraska?
Obviously I’ve improved all around more than I could ever have imagined before I came to school. Our assistant coach Mike Schuchart is an incredible swing teacher. I’ve made huge gains ballstriking-wise. I think playing college golf helps out with mental toughness, learning to play in any conditions. … Learning how to put everything aside and enjoy the time you have on the course. I would definitely say my entire game. Being a part of the college golf team at Nebraska definitely increased my mental toughness.
5.) What are your plans after graduation?
I will graduate in December of 2012, so I’ve got another semester after this spring, but I won’t be playing golf. I really don’t know yet; it’s up in the air. I would love to see how far golf takes me, but I’m just taking it step by step right now and not looking too far ahead. I’m majoring in philosophy, minoring in business. I haven’t found anything that I’m as passionate about as I am in golf.