Laisne, Longhorns finish just short in LA

Wills Layton

National champions are not born overnight. It takes years of practice, a little luck and a ton of talent for a team to contend. This year, the No. 2 Texas women’s golf team is in a position to do something the program has yet to accomplish: win a championship.

The journey to that goal started this week in Los Angeles, as the team played in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge to start the spring season. While the team did not win, they finished fourth to claim its fifth top-five performance this season. There are plenty of positives to take from the first competition of 2019.

“We had a chance to win today, but we’ll need to be much cleaner if we want to beat a field like this,” head coach Ryan Murphy said. “Agathe (Laisne) played great this week, as did Sára (Kousková). I’m proud of both of them. Finishing tied for second and top 10 are both terrific finishes in this field.”

One of the biggest positives to take from this week is the resurgence of Agathe Laisne, who came within two strokes of winning the tournament outright, and one from a playoff. After not qualifying for the Betsy Rawls Invitational, the “home” tournament for the Longhorns in the fall, Laisne’s high level of performance is exciting for the team moving forward.

However, Agathe is not alone on the depth chart. Even though she won the qualifier to start the spring, there are many quality golfers behind her.

“Agathe won our qualifier, but several players on the team could be in the one spot,” Murphy said. “That number one position is a revolving door right now on this team. It could be any of them, and that’s a good thing.”

The quality of this year’s team is largely due to a top-3 recruiting class from last year, which features Hailee Cooper, the winner of the Betsy Rawls in the fall, and Sará Kousková, the 2010 Czech Rookie of the Year at the age of 11.

“Any given year we’re looking around the globe,” Murphy said. “Kaitlyn Papp is from Austin, Agathe is from Paris, and we have Sára Kousková from Prague. Any given year you’re trying to identify the best possible players for your program, regardless of where they’re from.”

With Kousková finishing tied for eighth, the Longhorns had two golfers in the top 10, an impressive feat given the talented players present at the tournament. Even more amazing, both Laisne and Kousková were the fourth and fifth golfers in the lineup behind more established players such as Papp.

“I think it’s great that we have such tremendous depth on our team,” Papp said. “We’re all able to push each other and be super competitive in practice. It’s just great to have a group of people who have the same goals and vision as you.”

The women will next play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Golf Championship in New Orleans on Feb. 17.