The college golf season is unique in that the tournament schedule spans both semesters. This fall season, both Vaquero clubs have competed in tournaments held in September and this month.
Head Coaches Risë Alexander for the women’s team and Philip Tate on the men’s side say the fall season can shape the team’s identity and build confidence for the spring.
The men’s golf roster is an example of change and continuity. Two freshmen, Pedro Lamadrid and Andres Gonzalez, join UTRGV from Mexico, while Spanish native and junior Castro Gomez-Ruiz joins as a transfer student from Texas Western College.
Another addition to the team is Tate, who is now in charge after being hired in September. The former St. Thomas University coach played college golf at Big-12 member institution, Texas Tech University.
The rest of the 10-man roster are veteran players from legacy institution University of Texas Pan American, including defending WAC champion Nicolas Platret.
Coach Tate hopes the fall season will expose the team to different environments and experiences. So far, the group has been on trips to Illinois, Wisconsin and New Mexico.
“We need to get out of our comfort zone,” said Tate, the Texas Tech four-year letterman. “The national championship is held in different places each year and the only way to be ready for anything is to travel around and play under different conditions.”
The most successful result of the season so far came at the Houston Baptist University Husky Intercollegiate, where the team’s three-round score of 873 was good for second place overall. Newcomer Gonzalez led the team with a fourth-place finish and combined score of 214.
Coach Tate said the early positive result can go a long way.
“The guys are talented and the confirmation early in the year will be a motivator,” he said. “A lot of hard work with no payoff can take its toll. This should encourage us to work hard because we enjoyed the way that result felt.”
The women’s roster is four players smaller, with six golfers making up the team. If the men’s team is an example of change and continuity, the women’s team is an example of almost complete change.
Junior Kelsey Canales of Corpus Christi is the only player that came from UTPA. Junior Geraldine Torrellas is a transfer student from South Mountain Community College in her hometown of Phoenix.
The rest of the team is made up of four newcomers, three freshmen–Daniela Mendez, Emma Mesta and Michelle Moroles–and sophomore transfer Jessica Young, who was not part of athletics at her previous institution.
Risë Alexander, who served last season as the UTPA head coach and is in her 26th year overall in college golf, brings her experience to a young team. A year ago, she helped many golfers shoot career-best rounds.
The women’s fall schedule ends Tuesday at the Blue Raider Invitational in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The team will make its first in-state appearance in February at the Texas State Invitational in San Marcos.
Coach Alexander explained the benefits of traveling to tournaments across the country.
“It is imperative for this program to experience all types of courses and grasses in order to compete at a high level,” she said. “This past week at Tacoma [Washington] gave them a great look at what rye grass and poa annua greens feel and look like. They will need to recall those memories this coming spring when we compete again in the Pacific Northwest at the WAC Conference Championship. Playing at different venues gives them experiences to draw from in future events.”
Morales, a Sharyland High School graduate, has led the team in two of its three events and the youth movement is evident.
In the last tournament in Tacoma, Wash, another freshman, Emma Testa, led the team with a total score of 243, one stroke lower than Morales’ three- day score of 244.
Coach Alexander notes that growing in experience is paramount at this point.
“Experience is a great teacher if you are willing to look at the experience and learn from it. Improvement is relative, however,” she said. “Realistically, they have so much to learn about course management and strategy that I understand this won’t happen overnight. The commitments they make are not to results, but to hard work and discipline, which will improve their mental and physical games.”
The head coach said the fall season can be valuable in the coming months.
“The fall season gives us a lot of information statistically that we can utilize to determine what we need to focus on in the offseason,” Alexander said. “Other than statistics, though, I know our biggest challenge is building mental toughness in this group of young players. The culture we want to build develops that sense of mental toughness as well as teamwork.”
With a men’s team of veteran players and a young coach and a women’s team of young players and a veteran coach, both teams hope the mix yields impressive results this season.
After the final tournaments of the fall this month, golf will break until February when the stakes are raised and all eyes point to the WAC tournament in Blaine, Wash.