It wasn’t long after Jay Goble arrived in Waco, Texas that he realized he had something special in his gritty, grinding Baylor team. Goble saw the talent and the work ethic the first time they all came together, and a few months later, the rest of the competition is beginning to realize it, too.
Fresh off a three-year assistant coaching stint at Florida, Goble has the reigns of his own team for the first time. He says it’s been a smooth transition, and the results support that statement.
In three starts this season Baylor has finished sixth at the season-opening Ptarmigan Ram Classic and won back-to-back events at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational and Price’s “Give ’Em Five” Intercollegiate. The Bears are No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“The main thing that we kept talking about the whole week (at the Price’s “Give ’Em Five”) was we were probably the highest ranked team in the field so we felt like we had a little bit of a target on our back anyway,” Goble said. “We talked a lot about fighting through the rounds.”
Even without live scoring, Goble knew his team suffered a rough start in each of the final two rounds, getting to as many as 8 over in the opening holes. Both days, the Bears rebounded to post 2-under 286. Baylor narrowly held off Idaho, which shot 285 in the final round, to finish with a one-shot victory.
“That’s a really telling sign of a good team, they just keep plugging along and keep trying,” he said.
Fighting and plugging along seems to be second nature to this team, having shot like lightning from fourth to first at the Dick McGuire two weeks prior. Goble attributes that rise to his top three scorers going 6 under in their final five holes.
Baylor is a team that draws heavily from the leadership of three seniors, who all bring something different to the table. Jaclyn Jansen, co-medalist at the Price’s “Give ’Em Five,” is the vocal leader and the one responsible for getting the team “psyched.” Chelsey Cothran “comes out to practice every day with a plan,” and transfer Valerie Sternebeck leads similarly by example – bringing a wealth of experience after having played for the German National Team since 2003.
“I think the team chemistry we have right now is really good,” Goble said. “We go to these tournaments and we’re very confident.”
The team has its collective minds very firmly set on winning the Big 12 Championship, something never accomplished by a Baylor women’s golf team (the highest finish in program history is third). Though still far away, Baylor, especially the senior contingent, also is itching to get to the NCAA Championship for just the second time in program history and the first since 2004.
April will not sneak up on the Bears.
What: Stanford Intercollegiate
When: Oct. 14-16
Where: Stanford (Calif.) Golf Course
Why it’s important: This will be the first start for top-ranked UCLA since winning the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview in September. They’re joined by usual Pac-12 powers Arizona State, USC, Stanford and Oregon. An outlier worth noting is Oklahoma State, a team that has won its first two starts this season. Stanford will be the farthest from home the Cowgirls have traveled this season, and thus a good test of their depth and ability.
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On the rise: Central Florida is benefitting from a pair of strong freshmen who led the Knights to a massive comeback victory Oct. 11 at the Lady Northern Invitational. With Katie Mitchell (second) and Monifa Sealy (T-6) in the lead, UCF closed with a 5-over 289 to make up a 15-shot deficit on Ohio State and win by five shots.
The win is significant not just because of how it occurred but also because of the field. UCF, ranked No. 41 by Golfweek, finished ahead of five teams ranked inside the the top 50, including Ohio State (No. 22), Iowa State (No. 37), Michigan (No. 43), Augusta State (No. 47) and Illinois (No. 50). The Lady Northern victory follows a runner-up finish Oct. 2 at the Bettie Lou Evans Inviational.
UCF broke it’s eight-year winless streak a year and a half ago at the Hurricane Invitational but was erratic in its finishes the rest of the season. This time, the test will be to keep forging in the right direction.
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Five questions with Auburn sophomore Marta Sanz, of Madrid, Spain, who earned her first collegiate victory at the Tar Heel Invitational:
1.) You climbed from fourth to first in the final round with a 2-under 68. Was there a point where you really felt you had control of the tournament?
I was playing really good my first nine, I really wasn’t thinking that I was fighting for the lead. I started the round four shots behind the leader and I was just trying to shoot a low round for the team. At one time I got to 17 and I was seeing my sister and my coach watching me really intense, like telling me, ‘Come on, come on.’ I started to think I was the leader, but I had thought the whole time I was two shots behind. On 18 tee, Coach came and said, ‘Do you want to know how you are?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure, go ahead.’ And she told me I had a one-shot lead. At that point I couldn’t believe I was leading this tournament with 9 under. I knew I had to par the last hole, I went in the trees my first shot and hit a great shot from there to the green and made the putt.
2.) You had 16 birdies in three rounds. Is that normal for your game?
I don’t think I’ve ever made 16 birdies in three rounds. That’s a lot of them. I think the second round helped a lot, I made six birdies. I was just making it. I was getting it on the green and giving myself a chance for birdie and making them. I’m not really a ‘lot-of-birdies’ person. It was my week and I made them.
3.) What part of your game has improved the most since your freshman year?
I’ve gotten a lot stronger, I have a lot more control with my irons but I think my short game, my chipping – it’s the peak of my game. I am putting really good. I think the most I have improved is my chipping. We have a fantastic (short game) area here at Auburn and that has helped me a lot.
4.) Your sister Patricia also plays for Auburn. What’s the best part of being on the same team with her?
I don’t think I could find a (bad part) of playing with my sister on the team. She’s a great support, I know she’s going to be always there. She’s my family, she’s like part of me. Having her as a support and knowing that I have someone in my bag that I can go talk to and be confident with her, it’s absolutely awesome.
5.) You were a member of the Spanish National Junior Team. What’s the biggest difference between that experience and being a Tiger?
I think it’s a completely different situation. I feel the Auburn colors, but playing for Spain is like the greatest thing that could happen to me. I cannot wait to play again for them. I love to play for Auburn, but playing for Spain is the biggest thing I can do.