April 21, 1997
Tamara Parker Closing Out Stellar Career
By SuJo McKee
LUBBOCK, Texas - Every coach faces the inevitable. Whether it's because of graduation from junior high, high school or college, the time comes when a coach and an athletic program must say good-bye to those special student-athletes. Texas Tech senior golfer Tamara Parker is one of those head golf coach Jeff Mitchell hates to let go.
"I have no choice but to let her go," Mitchell said. "She has been a pleasure to coach for four years. "She is the consummate student in academics as well as athletics. She is an inspiration to the team as well as a hard worker."
Not only is Parker a committed and dedicated hard worker who leads the team in maturity and experience, she has developed a calm and confident air which helps her to handle the tough, pressure situations she encounters in golf. When presented with a challenge, she rises to the occasion with fire and determination to conquer whatever is set before her. Parker believes through hard work combined with a positive attitude, nothing is impossible to achieve.
From Frisco, Texas and a high school graduate of San Antonio Churchill, Parker proved her theory early on in college by winning a full scholarship to Texas Tech as a freshman, after only beginning to play golf competitively as a high school sophomore. After moving from St. Louis to San Antonio, Parker discovered a sport which intrigued her.
"Golf was a sport I hadn't played much," Parker said. "The other sports, like basketball and softball, I had pretty much already excelled at, thanks to a blessing of athleticism.
"When I got to San Antonio, I saw these other girls who were awesome. I got this fire to want to play golf and be as good as they were. There was something which attracted me about the game, it was different. I hadn't played it competitively and I saw it as a challenge to test myself."
Golf, as was the case for softball and basketball, is complimentary to Parker's ability and talent. She has played in every tournament for Texas Tech since joining the team in the fall of 1993 as a freshman.
"Tamara is the only player that has done that since I've coached here, and no one on the golf team now will be able to match that," Mitchell said. "She has made a big impact on this team."
Last season, with Parker as an important factor, Texas Tech advanced to the NCAA Women's Golf Championship for the first time in school history. She also helped the Red Raiders advance to the NCAA West Regional Golf Championships in 1994 and 1996. Tech has a solid shot at another NCAA Regional appearance this season.
Parker's successes have been numerous since arriving at Tech. This season she finished in a tie for seventh at the Susie Maxwell Berning Classic - firing rounds of 79, 80 and 76 for a total of 235 while helping the team place second. Parker has shot a low round of 75 twice this year, at the Stanford Intercollegiate and at the Dick McGuire Invitational.
Last season, Parker's best finish was in the first tournament at Nebraska's Chip'N Club Invitational with a tie for 13th, while posting a 79.8 scoring average for the year. During her sophomore year, Parker tied for 19th at the final Southwest Conference Championships, and shot a season-low round of 74 at the Chris Johnson Invitational. She recorded three top 25-place finishes, while posting a 78.8 scoring average. Parker posted a scoring average of 79.9 as a freshman, finishing among the top 25 five times and once in the top 10 at the LSU-Fairwood Invitational with an eight-place showing.
As the only three-letter senior on the team, Parker has naturally assumed a leadership position. She attributes her work ethic and leadership to former players Stacy Kolb and Tracy Thomson.
"I remember watching Stacy and Tracy. They set the mood for the rest of the team as far as work ethic and being positive," Parker said. "Whether they realize it or not, they were a big impact as far as attitude on the team. I've realized upperclassmen play that kind of role and it has created consistency on the team." Parker credits two sisters, Holly Carriker now playing at Texas and Kelly Carriker now playing at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, as the biggest influences on her golf career. She recalls their intensity and level of play igniting her to be just as good as they were.
Parker recalls the high school regional tournament her senior year as her proudest moment or accomplishment. She finished second.
"At regional my senior year, it was the first tournament I played in competitively that I shot under par and beat Holly," Parker said. "To me, that was a huge stepping stone because Holly was going to college on a golf scholarship. It helped me see where I could go and that I could compete. I had already signed with Tech, so it helped build my confidence. It was really exciting."
At the 5A State Championship her senior year, Parker finished fifth, shooting under par again. Her team placed third.
Parker said continuing her golf career in college was always a thought in the back of her mind. She started thinking about it seriously when she began shooting solid scores toward the end of her junior year. Not long after, Parker set her mind to reaching that goal.
"I told my mom even if I don't get a scholarship, I'll walk on and I'll get one next year," Parker said. "By then, there was never a doubt in my mind. I knew I wanted to work hard enough at it, and if I had that kind of attitude I would do whatever I had to do to make it happen."
Mitchell saw this attitude in Parker. He offered Parker a scholarship to Texas Tech. She gladly accepted the opportunity to become a Red Raider.
Parker credits Mitchell for her successes on and off the golf course. "One thing I would say that Jeff's helped me understand is golf is very rarely a sport that you can hop into," Parker said. "It is a game of patience. You can have all the natural talent and ability, but you have to have patience and go through the whole process of becoming a better golfer."
Parker feels that golf has helped her learn patience and control her temper. "As Jeff says, 'You can tell a lot more about a person by playing one round of golf with them than you can spending weeks with them,' because golf shows your attitude, temper and patience," Parker said. "I feel like being on the golf course, I've had to change my attitude and temper.
"I used to get really down and negative when my golf game was not going like I wanted it to. Now, I feel as I've grown, my golf game has grown as well. I'm more level-headed, calm and patient. I've learned not everything is going to go the way you want it to."
Parker said she has improved most in her putting and chipping, thanks to Mitchell.
"I have learned a lot from Jeff in those two areas," Parker said. "He's helped me a lot. I think that will be a big key in the future.
"Jeff is an incredible coach and will be an incredible memory for the rest of my life. He has been so much fun, I wouldn't pick another coach . He definitely puts his heart, soul and mind into his game and his job. He loves it and just as we are learning and growing, he is learning and growing as a coach."
As graduation day draws closer, Parker is solidifying her plans for the future. She will graduate this year with a degree in marketing. She plans on playing in some amateur events this summer, then going to tour school in hopes of getting her LPGA card.
"I feel that I'll have a pretty good idea after the travel and stuff if playing golf professionally is what I want to do for the next few years of my life. If I don't go through tour school and get my card, I could play in some mini-tour (events) which start in the spring or I could get a job. Who knows what opportunities will come."
One thing is for sure, wherever Parker goes or whatever she does, her "nothing-is-impossible" attitude will carry her far. The mark she leaves at Texas Tech will be a precedent set for future bright stars to follow forever.