Women's Golf Team Benefits From Close-Knit Junior Class|
The Lady Raiders look to end their fall season on a positive note at the Texas State Challenge on Nov. 7
November 4, 2011
by Holly Kitten
When JoJo Robertson accepted the head coaching position with Texas Tech Women's golf in 2009, she wasn't the only new face on the team.
Among the seven players, four were freshmen.
Having such a young team and a new coach seemed a possible disadvantage, but Robertson helped advance the Lady Raiders to the NCAA East Regional that year, where they tied for ninth place overall - just one place short of qualifying for the national tournament.
"We actually had a good team that first year," Robertson said.
Those four players still make up the majority of the team, only now, they are juniors.
Robertson said the four women have truly stepped up as leaders this year.
"They've done a great job," she said. "Obviously they have the most experience on our team."
From the beginning, Robertson said those four have acted as a team. Not only do they work well together on the course, but they get along well off the green, too. Plus, they make sure to include the underclassmen in all they do, too, whether it be eating together, taking the same classes, going to football games, or living as roommates.
Kaufman said being such a close team positively affects their game on the course.
"When we're not on the golf course," the junior said, "we're often together, which makes it that much easier to go out and support each other. When we're out playing, we help each other. We have a great team dynamic."
Kaufman said it is intimidating coming in as a freshman, because freshmen don't know what to expect during the first tournaments. She and her other junior teammates try to smooth that transition for the three underclassmen.
Kaufman said she remembers the feeling.
"As a freshman, especially for me, you kind of went in, and you didn't know how you were going to do." She said.
Now, the feeling has changed.
"Two and a half years later, I think all four of us are leaders on this team," Kaufman said. "All our games have improved. We look at tournaments and courses a lot differently, and we've all realized that we can do a lot here. There's a lot of talent."
Robertson said the team did well this fall. They placed fourth at their first tournament, the Ptarmigan Ram Classic in Colorado, where 19 other teams were competing.
Then, they came in with an 11th place finish in Chicago in the Windy City Collegiate Championships. Robertson said the field was the toughest the team has played on.
After that, the Lady Raiders fell just one stroke short of winning the Susie Berning Maxwell classic in Norman, Okla. They placed second, next to Oklahoma.
Last week, the Lady Raiders finished eighth in the UTSA Alamo Invitation in San Antonio. Robertson said the finish was disappointing for the team, especially after they had such a great second round. However, the team hopes to redeem themselves in their last fall tournament in Austin this weekend.
"It was not the way we wanted to finish in San Antonio," Robertson said, "So we've got one more chance to play the way our team knows they're capable of."
After the tournament in Austin, the Lady Raiders will have an off-season before returning for the spring. Robertson said the women made a team goal early in the year to be successful in the spring by placing in the top three of every tournament they play in, including the conference tournament.
They hope to qualify for nationals, something the Lady Raiders have come close to doing, but have not achieved in the last two years.
Roberston said the Big 12 is strong this year, with six of the women's teams currently ranking in the top 30 national teams by Golf Week , including Texas Tech. Therefore, their team goal may be difficult, but she has faith in the women.
"I think [assistant coach] Emily [Kuhfeld] and I are in a pretty good position to feel like our players are ready any chance they're given," Robertson said. "It says a lot about them individually, how they support each other and work the way they do."
Kaufman said creating high goals like that is what helps the team to work hard throughout the season.
And with the tight-knit group that their team is, the junior has no doubt that they will support each other in that goal and work as hard as they can next season.
"It's a high goal, but I think it's something we can definitely obtain," Kaufman said. "We are a very close team. I think everyone's thankful for that. We've had two really great years and I think we're looking forward to a good spring and a good senior year."