Making final preparations before an exciting postseason

Blake McAdow

Exhibition with Vanderbilt
With an open weekend and an extra pocketed day of competition, Texas took on Vanderbilt in a one-day dual event two weekends ago. Not only was this an extra opportunity to compete against another top team, but it was a chance to preview the course where the upcoming NCAA Championships will take place at the end of May.

“That was so much fun and a great way to see the course before Nationals,” said junior Haley Stephens. “We feel really good about going back because it was a really good, relaxed atmosphere.”

The Longhorns also have the inside scoop on Nashville’s course from their own head coach, Martha Richards, who previously coached at Vanderbilt for seven seasons before coming to Texas in 2007.

“I know the golf course so well, and I think it can help us in the practice rounds,” Richards said. “We have to make sure they have great strategy in how to go play the golf course. It allows you to have really productive practice rounds because the coaches don’t have to sit around and wonder, ‘Oh, I wonder what this green does?’ — we know what it does and we will have a strong game plan.”

Peaking at the right time
After claiming the program’s first No. 1 national ranking in September, Texas has not played as well this spring. However, after the slow start, Texas has gradually gotten more consistent play from its veteran leaders and happily welcomed back the play and presence of freshman Bertine Strauss, who missed five weeks in the fall with pneumonia.

“She adds a great vibe to this team that we missed, and we’re glad to have it back,” Stephens said. “She’s always positive and a great asset to this team.”

Starting off with a mediocre finish in Florida in February, the Longhorns are beginning to look like the team that early season success indicated they could become.

“We are playing really well, so this is perfect timing for us to go out and play,” senior Nicole Vandermade said.

“They’ve done a really good job the last two weeks,” Richards said. “Everybody has honed in and focused, but also they’re at ease as well, so that should give us a lot of confidence this weekend.”

What to work on with one month to go
Unlike most sports, golf is solely an individual game. Although a team score is accumulated from the team’s top four scorers, there are no timeouts or game plan adjustments halfway through the game. The setup does not allow for crowds to pump up the home team or root against the opponent. However, just like all other sports, there is always room for individual improvements, and Texas is finding what each player needs to focus on before the postseason.

“I felt uncomfortable with my driver, so I’ve been really working on hitting with my driver a lot more,” Vandermade said. “The courses in the postseason usually play better with my driver, so I know that my ball striking doesn’t have to be perfect in order for me to play well.”

As a whole, the Longhorns’ main focus has been on the short game and knowing that a few missed putts could cost them several places in the final standings of a tournament.

“We’ve been all figuring out what we need to work on individually,” Vandermade said. “Coach [Richards] makes us all work on our short game for two hours before we’re allowed to do anything else.”

“I’ve really been working on getting my short game pristine and getting ready for the tournament,” Stephens said.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Texas looks to championships with one month of play left