Posted on Greg Robertson’s office door are goal sheets for each of his Kent State players. Each has defined her own personal goals, then mapped out a practice plan for how she will achieve them.
Robertson is new to Kent State after being named just the second head coach in program history last summer. This coaching technique, however, is a holdover from Purdue, where Roberston earned his coaching stripes under Hall of Famer Devon Brouse.
“What was nice at Purdue was that Coach Brouse really kind of let me become my own coach and really gave me a lot of responsibilities,” said Robertson, who was with the Boilermakers for 11 years. “I think he prepared me pretty well for getting a job as a head coach.”
In college golf, they rarely come as experienced as Robertson, who played collegiately for Oklahoma State (and one year for New Mexico) before arriving at Purdue in 2002, helping coach the Boilermaker women to the program’s first NCAA title in 2010. His caddie services have been coveted by former players. Robertson looped for Maria Hernandez at the 2009 and ’10 U.S. Women’s Open and picked up Laura Gonzalez-Escallon’s bag for LPGA Q-School in the fall.
In college play, Robertson likes to walk with his players as if he was caddying.
“That’s been a good learning experience for me, also just how to handle situations and big tournaments like the U.S. open and work on those type of golf courses and see what those players are doing,” he said.
With all that experience Robertson is the perfect fit for a Kent State women’s team, carrying the program that former head coach Mike Morrow crafted into one of the best mid-major options in the country. Morrow built the program from the ground up, and Robertson’s goal is to continue the rise.
“Ultimately we want to build a program to an elite level, something similar to what Purdue is doing,” Robertson said.
Despite the reputation of national prominence, Kent State struggled in 2012-13. The Golden Flashes finished the season an uncharacteristic 71st in Golfweek’s rankings. Kent State has played a reliably tough schedule in recent years, but struggled with that challenge last spring. This season, Robertson created a heavier spring schedule with an emphasis on teams Kent State would meet in the postseason. He wants his squad to be ready, and also to benefit from traveling south to warmer weather. That helps rid the rust.
In what was nearly the ultimate rebound, the Golden Flashes finished runner-up to Arizona at the SunTrust Gator Invitational on March 16 after finishing last at that tournament a year ago. There have been four other victories this season, and Kent State is up to No. 34 in Golfweek’s rankings.
Robertson takes the most pride in his team’s collective GPA (3.595 in the fall) and dedication to community service. Each of Kent State’s returners lowered her scoring average by more than a shot this year. With assistant coach Maddi Swaney easing the transition, Kent State has lost little momentum.
There are three more regular-season tournaments before Kent State plays for its 16th consecutive Mid-American Conference title. It’s one of the most impressive streaks in women’s college golf, but Robertson won’t let that become Kent State’s only legacy.
“I haven’t said a single thing about it,” he said. “We just talk about the preparation, we’ve talked about attitudes. We’re kind of taking each tournament one tournament at a time.”
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SECRET IS OUT: Defending Division III national champion Laura Lindsey, a Texas-Tyler sophomore, couldn’t wait for a post-round phone call with dad Bill. Live scoring showed a pair of eagles during the back nine of her second round at the Jekyll Island Invitational. She knew her parents would be watching, but would think it was a typo.
“He had me on speaker and they were freaking out,” Lindsey said of that phone call. Lindsey has indeed holed out twice from the fairway that day on her way to a 4-under 68. All who witnessed that day were equally “freaking out.”
Lindsey made the first eagle at the par-4 13th. It was perhaps the more unlikely since she had hit her drive left under some trees. She went back and forth between clubs from nearly 120 yards before choosing to hit a soft 9-iron. Blinded by the sun, she didn’t see it go in. A competitor’s mom did, however, and immediately began shrieking.
Two holes later, at the par-4 15th, Lindsey hit an 8-iron from 136 yards that she thought came up short. It had rolled in the hole.
“I just started laughing,” said Lindsey, who eventually won the tournament. “You don’t do that twice in one round.”
Lindsey is technically an underclassmen, but still the team captain for Texas-Tyler. The squad is focused single-mindedly on making it to the national championship, where it finished second last year. In Division III, conference champions earn an automatic qualifier into nationals. The rest of the field is filled by bids.
“We were really excited the way we played at Jekyll,” Lindsey said of a team runner-up. “We’ve won five tournaments this year so we’re just trying to keep winning tournaments.”
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Q&A WITH… Miami freshman Daniela Darquea, who won her second consecutive tournament March 16 at the SunTrust Gator Invitational. Darquea, of Ecuador, also won the Hurricane Invitational on March 5 in sudden death.
You had six birdies in the opening seven holes at the Gator. Is that a first?
It’s a first, it was really fun. I started on No. 9, made a long putt there and then I started putting really good, getting a lot of confidence and six went in.
What’s your record for most consecutive birdies?
Three or four, no more than that.
The Mark Bostick course (site of the Gator) is not a very long course and really tests short game. Was that good for you?
Even though I am a long hitter, I think the course was really challenging. We were hitting 6-, 7-irons to the greens which is not super short for women’s golf. There were holes where I had to even hit my 4-iron to the green. It was windy, which makes the course tougher and more long, so it was really, really hard. Short game obviously is very important at every single course around the world.
With two college victories now, describe that feeling.
It was really fun, my teammates are really supporting. For my first college win, it was awesome because they came and walked with me and supported me when I was super nervous before the sudden-death playoff. I felt the love from my teammates and my coaches. (Assistant) coach John (Koskinen) was with me the whole playoff and the last few holes of the last round. I feel that that team love feeling was the best thing of it. I loved it.
How do you describe the team this year? You’re quickly moving up the rankings.
Golf is an individual sport, so I’ve been playing junior golf all my life and it was individual. I’ve never been part of a team because I’m an international student. Being part of a team, it’s awesome. I love it, I love the girls here. They’re all hard workers and we stay together. Our accomplishments are just something that comes with all the hard work we’re putting into it.
What’s the biggest difference between Ecuador and Miami? Golf or otherwise.
Miami is a very nice place, I love it here. Of course there are some differences from home. New eating habits, the weather, it’s very nice here. With my country, you have 35 degrees (Celsius, about 95 degrees Fahrenheit) every single day. I love it here, I really enjoy being here.