The women’s golf program started this season with a series of new individual and team records as they work to establish the program as an athletic competitor as well as an academic one.
In a school full of American Southwest Conference championship winning programs, the women’s golf team has never placed in the top three of an ASC tournament. Under head coach Butch Edge, who took over the job before the 2015-2016 season, they started to rise.
Their fourth place finish in the ASC tournament during the first year of his tenure was the highest in UTD history, but a player’s illness last season left them one member short of being able to compete as a team for the conference title.
“When I took over, we were so bad, we were un-rankable,” Edge said. “Last year, we finished 48th, and if the rankings came in today, we’d be in the top 25.”
The golf team started the season by taking third in the Lady Bulldog Fall Classic on Sept. 12. In their second tournament of the season, the Transylvania Intercollegiate, they held a 10-stroke lead after the first day.
“They’d never been in the position as the leader and they’re looking around like, ‘This is different,’” Edge said. “Well, you’ve got to perform, ladies. They’re going to come get you.”
The Comets took home first place in the tournament, setting a school record in the process. Their combined score of 628 was four points better than the record they’d set this season at the Lady Bulldog Fall Classic, and 13 points better than the record that stood prior to this season.
Freshman Lindy Patterson set an individual record as well, scoring 149 over the two rounds for the lowest individual 36-hole score in school history. Patterson took home second place overall, just one stroke above the first place finisher, and won the ASC Golfer of the Week title.
“It’s been really fun, being able to have a team that can break school records,” she said. “We know we can shoot better than we have in the past, so it’s fun when we’re actually attaining those goals and passing them.”
The Transylvania Intercollegiate was held in Nicholasville, Kentucky, which means the team spent considerable time on the road travelling for the tournament. Sophomore Marissa Langer, who took over the fourth place position for UTD’s 36-hole record with her score of 155 at the Lady Bulldog Classic, said the team members don’t get a break from classes for the travel time. They have to make up anything they missed, which can be difficult to balance.
“We were coming back at 6 a.m. on Monday morning and people had exams at 11:30 a.m.,” she said. “We have to work hard to keep up our grades.”
Edge encourages the team to keep up with their studies with the goal in mind that they would place at the top of the ranking for academics as well as athletics. With the team spending their entire weekend on the golf course, they end up with very little free time, leaving many of them to study while on the bus or plane ride.
“At times it breaks my heart,” Edge said. “They take a quick nap and the rest of the time their computers are on, the books are out and they study all the way here.”
An 18-hole round typically takes five or six hours to complete during a competition. In addition, they practice for four hours at a time, adding up to around 20 hours a week on a combination of practice, strength and conditioning. Along with their work on the golf course, the athletes attend classes and do homework like regular students, leaving very little time for a social life during the season.
“You go to class, you study, you play golf, you eat, you sleep and you do the same thing over,” Edge said. “There’s just not enough time to do anything else.”
That academic focus translates into how Edge sees the season itself.
“Every day you go out there and we have a match, that’s test day,” he said. “There’s 18 questions, so how are you going to answer them? Our midterm is the fall season and our final is the conference championship. We all want to do well on our midterms but the goal is the final.”
The women have one more tournament before the break between the fall and spring seasons, the Abilene Intercollegiate on Oct. 23-24. During the break, NCAA regulations forbid official team practices. The athletes still attend strength and conditioning training during that period, and Edge has set up a round robin tournament throughout the break to keep the players in contact and in practice.
The golfers also take a personal initiative to maintain their play during the down time. Patterson will continue to play on her home course to stay sharp. She will also work with her personal swing coach, which is not against the regulations.
“We’ll continue to make sure we’re growing, we’re building and that foundation is still set for the spring,” Patterson said.