Editor's note: This story was originally published in print on Thursday, Sept. 24.
With hopes of maintaining its overall success from last year, the Texas women’s golf team will open its fall season at the Schooner Fall Classic in Norman, Oklahoma, this weekend.
When spring championships were canceled in March due to the pandemic, the Longhorns were ranked No. 2 in the nation despite failing to capture an event during the shortened spring season.
“We just go out there and do the best that we can and not put pressure on ourselves to necessarily follow up what we did last year,” senior Kaitlyn Papp said. “We all know what we’re capable of doing.”
Junior Hailee Cooper said the team implemented social distance guidelines and protocols to its offseason practices so that players could go through a normal training routine and feel as prepared as they did in past seasons.
“With the craziness the past six months, I feel like we have had a lot of time to just prepare and work on some things that normally in the past we would not have had as much time to do,” Papp said.
This season, the team consists of three freshmen compared to only one freshman last season. Although team bonding is difficult due to social distance guidelines, Cooper said the team was lucky enough to already know the freshmen before the pandemic.
“I like to lead by example, whether it's with academics or school, working out, time management,” Papp said. “I think that's the best way to lead and welcome the new freshmen to the team.”
Last year, the Longhorns placed first at the Schooner Fall Classic behind Papp’s third-place finish. Sophomore Sophie Guo and junior Sara Kouskova both stood out for Texas, shooting one-over-par and tying for sixteenth overall.
Senior Agathe Laisne, Guo and Papp were all named to the ANNIKA Award Preseason Watch List on Thursday. On Sept. 10, Papp competed professionally at LGPA’s ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California. Although she did not make the cut in Rancho Mirage, she’s ready to go Sunday for the Longhorns.
“I want to say last year at one point in our lineup, every single player had played a pro event, which is really cool to be surrounded by,” Cooper said. “And then (Papp) being able to play at the ANA this year. It’s really fun to just watch her practice, and I’ve learned a lot from being here.”
The Schooner Fall Classic will be a 54-hole tournament beginning Sunday and ending Monday. It’s the first of four scheduled tournaments for the fall season. In past seasons, the Longhorns competed in the Schooner Fall Classic after competing in the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, but the ANNIKA Intercollegiate was canceled this year due to the pandemic.
“Obviously, the ANNIKA is always packed with a bunch of power teams and everything, but the Big 12 is always packed the same,” Cooper said. “It’s a bunch of really good teams, so it's exciting because the Schooner is mostly Big 12 teams competing.”