Martha Richards

Continuing their momentum from their last regular season tournament, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns seek their first conference title since 2011 this weekend when Iowa State hosts the Big 12 Championship at The Harvester in Rhodes, Iowa.

In the PING/ASU Invitational, the team recorded the lowest three-round total since 2009 with a season-low 286 in the first round and consecutive 289s in the remaining two rounds of the tournament.

Head coach Martha Richards said all-around play from the team has played a crucial role in the Longhorns’ performance.

“I think we’re playing some good golf,” Richards said. “I think everybody on this team that has played for us this spring, which we’ve had seven different players play in our lineup, have all made really big contributions, and I feel improvements that I’ve seen and I think we’ve made ourselves a team that has a real shot to put a win this week.”

Two years ago, the Longhorns captured their last conference title. Seniors Madison Pressel, Katelyn Sepmoree and Haley Stephens played in the 2011 conference championship tournament. Pressel also won the 2011 conference individual title with a winning score of 8-under 208 as she shot a career-low and Big 12-record 66 in the second round. As a team, the Longhorns won their third Big 12 crown (1997 and 2004) with a score of 872.

Last year at the Lawrence Country Club in Lawrence, Kan., Oklahoma won the team title with a score of 64-over 904 and Texas A&M’s Mary Michael Maggio won the individual title at 9-over 219. In that 2012 championship, the Longhorns finished in second place, seven strokes behind the Sooners.

Richards said she believes the team is ready and excited to tee off in Friday’s opening round.

“We feel like we have a great shot and that we can make things interesting,” Richards said. “They don’t hand out the trophies based on who’s ranked higher; it’s who plays better this week. So I think our group is excited about going to compete and going to put up some good numbers no matter what the conditions.”

Women's Golf

Texas will have a lot of work to do Tuesday if it wants to retain the team title.

The Longhorns finished the second round of the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational on Monday in a tie for fifth with a 10-over 586.

“I think we’ve continued to play a lot of really good golf,” head coach Martha Richards said. “We’re fighting hard, and they did a really nice job today.”

The Longhorns sit tied with Tulsa. Florida and Alabama share first place with a 3-under 573.

Sophomore Bertine Strauss leads all Longhorns with a 4-under 140 through two rounds. She currently sits in fourth place, two shots off the lead.

“I think just knowing all the ins and outs and knowing the places where you can conquer makes a big difference,” Strauss said. The Longhorns won the tournament last year but face a long uphill climb to contend for the team title.

About a month after their last tournament, the Longhorns will compete in the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. this weekend.

Despite the long layoff, head coach Martha Richards said the team looks really good going into the tournament.

“We’ve got a really deep team,” Richards said. “We’re eight deep, and we’ve got a great five going, and we’re leaving three really good players at home, and it’s a good situation to be in. I like the way everybody’s playing.”

While they haven’t played a competitive match since their tournament at Vanderbilt, the Longhorns hosted their annual Weis Cup Alumni match Sunday and won 5-1. Richards said it was good to have that match to get the team back into the competitive flow.

“It got us back into the competitive mode,” Richards said. “We’ve had some inter-team matches, but I think we’re excited to play a couple more tournaments here, and I think we’re in a good place.”

The Longhorns also made strides in the rankings during their layoff. Texas moved up to the No. 7 position in the Golfweek team rankings, and freshman Tezira Abe and senior Desiree Dubreuil are ranked No. 32 and 33, respectively.

Even though she’s ranked highly as a freshman, Abe said she doesn’t feel any pressure.

“I’m just really excited to be here,” Abe said. “I want to keep building on that. The goal is still to win a national championship, and I really want to be a part of that.”

Also competing in the Stanford tournament are five other top 10 schools, including No. 1 Washington. Despite that lineup, Abe said she believes the Longhorns can still come out with a strong finish.

“My very first collegiate tournament I finished tied for 10th with Desiree, and that was a really good time,” Abe said. “I just want to keep building on that.”

Women's Golf

WomenÂ’s golf coach Martha Richards traces her success both as a player and a coach to the passage of Title IX, and believes academics opportunites have increased mightily since the amendmentÂ’s inception in 1972.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Since Title IX’s inception, the landscape of college athletics has transformed immensely. The legislation, which prohibited sexual discrimination at educational institutions, has not only given female athletes the chance to play at the collegiate level, but has also opened doors for the rest of their lives.

For women’s golf head coach Martha Richards, her whole life can be attributed to Title IX. Richards played golf and basketball at Stanford from 1989-1993, and she has been coaching at the collegiate level ever since, with stops at Stanford, Boise State, Vanderbilt and finally Texas.

“I think I was one of those first-generation kids that really got to benefit from Title IX,” Richards said. “The doors that have opened since that legislation have just been tremendous. I know I am incredibly thankful, and I remember my mom telling me that while she was growing up all she could do was either be on the swim team or the cheer team. I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to be a two-sport athlete at Stanford and to be able to coach at some great universities. None of that would have happened if Title IX did not exist.”

Title IX isn’t just about allowing women’s athletics to have a team with a roster and a few events here and there, but has evolved to where people can take interest and follow the teams, and become as accessible as men’s athletics. Although the money piped into men’s athletics is drastically higher than on the women’s side, this isn’t necessarily reason to object, nor is it a violation of Title IX. It is no secret that in this country, and especially in this state, football rules, and there is no female equivalent that provides the same amount of roster spots, event attendance or national coverage.

But it also doesn’t mean women’s sports have been left out to dry.

“I remember my freshman year of high school they had the same [basketball] uniforms as when they first started the program and they had half-inch thick polyester collars on them, flapping in my face as I ran down the court. My sophomore year we got new uniforms, and I would say that was definitely a product of Title IX,” Richards said. “To see how the national championship has changed over the years, even from when I played to when I started coaching to now, is night and day. It’s just a bigger event, and none of that has happened without Title IX. It has forced the hand of everyone involved, whether it is sponsors or the people who support the university, and made them realize that these girls can play.”

The evolution of Title IX has been staggering.

Besides providing opportunities for female athletes to attend a university on an academic or athletic scholarship, it has built the foundation for careers that would not have been available 40 years ago.

“I look at my job right now and I don’t think there would be as many female coaches, because we would not have had the opportunity to have all of those experiences,” Richards said. “When you think about [former Texas women’s basketball coach] Jody [Conradt] or [former Tennessee basketball coach] Pat Summitt, when they got into coaching they were really trailblazers, just because it wasn’t a profession that women sought out. Title IX has done more than just impact the experience you have as a high school or collegiate athlete. It’s also opened up the private sector to a whole new arena of jobs. It has provided women opportunities in the business world well beyond their college athletic years. The doors that have opened since that legislation have just been tremendous.”

The legislation has also diversified universities across the country, bringing in international athletes who know they can receive an American education, as well as play sports on scholarship. Texas currently has 17 female international athletes, including two on the golf team.

“When you talk to the National team coaches, a majority of them want their players to come here and play college golf and believe that is the next place for them to go whether to help their country or to compete against international competition,” Richards said. “These players can continue training at no expense to their country.”

From the player perspective, it has allowed international athletes to see other parts of the world and experience American culture.

“One thing I wish South Africa had that America has is the way things work,” said freshman golfer Bertine Strauss. “How the infrastructure of the country is and how much easier it is to do things, from getting around, to doing everything online. Back home, a lot of things are manual. If I wanted to go the pharmacy, I would actually have to go there and give my form in, but here everything is done online and is so much easier.”

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX’s legislation, and the evolution of the NCAA in both men’s and women’s athletics during this time has been overwhelming. The games have grown so much that the NCAA now recognizes 20 men’s and women’s sports, from field hockey and bowling to softball, basketball and golf. Popularity has now reached the point that the 2016 Olympics will now have men’s golf for the first time since 1904, and women’s golf for the first time ever.

Printed on Thursday, May 3, 2012 as: Coaches, players benefit from historic amendment

Freshman Bertine Strauss has solidified the Longhorn lineup this season giving the team a solid option in th five slot with her 76 scoring average.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

After a year of change, struggles, successes and adjustments to a new country, freshman Bertine Strauss is peaking at the right time and will be a huge part of any success Texas has this postseason.

In the fall, Texas was off to a tremendous start, winning the first tournament of the year in Texas A&M’s backyard, where Strauss joined three teammates to finish in the top 11 individually. Texas earned the program’s first No. 1 national ranking, and it appeared to be the beginning of a historic season. Strauss joining an experienced squad of upperclassmen gave the team the right lineup to compete all year.

By the third tournament, however, Strauss knew something was wrong. She withdrew from the tournament after the first round due to illness, but somehow miraculously came back for Sunday’s final round to help the team score. Despite her courageous effort, the team finished a disappointing 10th, and Strauss’ illness wasn’t just an everyday cold or an adjustment to weather. She had pneumonia.

After missing the final tournament of the fall, Strauss went home to South Africa to recover and get back to golf. It was obvious that her presence was missed on and off the field.

“She’s hilarious and a little spark for our team,” said senior Nicole Vandermade. “When she was out, it was sad because we missed having her around to make us laugh.”

Her time away from the course made her hungrier for success in the spring season.

“I ended up missing five weeks, but when I look back at it now, it was probably a good thing because it made me want to come back and play well,” Strauss said. “Missing the last event of the fall, I was definitely frustrated. It made me think a lot about why I play golf and enjoy it so much, and it definitely made me more hungry to come out and play this spring.”

Once the trainers cleared her to play, Strauss was back on the course to practice for the competitive spring ahead.

“Golf is like a riding a bike, and it doesn’t go away,” Strauss said. “When I’ve been playing so long, I can just get back on and ride, so it wasn’t that bad to get back into [golf]. While I was home, I had one round where I shot 5-under-[par]. That was the point when I realized, I’m definitely back.”

Coming back for the spring, expectations were high for the Longhorns, who had climbed into the top 10 nationally and were the defending Big 12 champions. But when the spring slate began, Strauss and the rest of the Longhorns struggled.

At the UCF Challenge, Strauss had her worst tournament of the year, coming in 76th out of 99 golfers.

“In the beginning I put quite a lot of pressure on myself,” Strauss said.

Slowly, Strauss has improved in every tournament this spring, jumping to 49th, to 35th, to 26th, and just last week she led Texas and finished second overall in an exhibition round with national powerhouse Vanderbilt.

“I’ve just had a lot of fun the last few events and I’ve managed to shoot a few more lower rounds,” Strauss said.

“She has really bounced back and is stronger,” said head coach Martha Richards. “She is hitting the ball great and starting to feel comfortable in Texas, knowing she has a family here, too. When you go halfway around the world like she has, it takes awhile to get settled.”

Strauss has definitely settled into her new life, enjoying her golf game, her teammates and her new home as a Longhorn.

“The one thing that stands out to me [about the United States] is I never knew how big college sports are,” Strauss said. “You hear about it from being in a different country, but you don’t realize that there are 100,000 people that come to see a football game. To be in the stadium and to see all of the pride and tradition of what it means to be a Longhorn was an amazing experience. I’m really excited about next season.”

At the PING/ASU Invitational, Strauss fired a 69 in the second round for her best round of her collegiate career, placing herself in 4th among the nations’ best golfers. In the final round, however, Strauss wasn’t able to close the deal, and dropped to 26th.

“Sometimes the first time around, when you’re in the thick of things, you step up and win the tournament, and other times you fall down and skin your knees a little bit,” Richards said. “What I love is the way she has learned from that.”

In a season full of ups, downs and learning experiences for Strauss and the Longhorns, they are saving their best for last.

“It was unfortunate to see her get sick so much last year, but I think it was a learning process where she was able to learn more about college life and college golf, and now she’s come back and used those experiences to her advantage,” Vandermade said.

This weekend in Lawrence, Kan., Strauss will be the only underclassmen competing in the Big 12 Championship, as the No. 31 Longhorns try to defend their title.

“We haven’t played our best golf yet,” Strauss said. “I’m still waiting for that one really low round, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to come in the very near future.”

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Pneumonia set her back but freshman is back strong

Women's Golf

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

With two weeks left before the Longhorns defend their Big 12 title, Texas is taking advantage of an open weekend and putting in some final competitive action against highly ranked Vanderbilt.

“We knew in the fall we’d have an extra day, and with the national championship being hosted there, we thought about having a little one-day competition there,” said head coach Martha Richards.

This weekend’s matchup will not be of conventional stroke-play, but played in twosomes with a play-six-count-five scoring method. This basically means out of every six holes, the best five results for each player are counted, totaling 15 holes out of 18 played.

“The biggest thing I want to see from the group this weekend is how we’ve been building as a team, with team camaraderie,” Richards said. “It’s a little bit different in golf because you’re playing by yourself, but you can still get a lot of energy from each other. Individually, I want each one of them to take care of their business.”

After a frustrating spring full of inconsistent play, Texas finally broke through in their last tournament, finishing 7th overall against some tough competition in Arizona.

“I was really happy and they did a good job,” Richards said. “We always seem to play well out there and they like the way that tournament feels. It’s always fun to play against the top ranked teams.”

Freshman Bertine Strauss broke onto the scene with an impressive second round to leap into contention. With Strauss adding to the experienced squad of senior Nicole Vandermade, juniors Madison Pressel, Haley Stephens and Desiree Debreuil, Texas is ready to show the country what they are capable of as a group.

“We’ve played good golf, but they feel like they haven’t played as well as they can yet,” Richards said. “I keep telling them that we are really, really close, but now we’ve been working on finding that dig deep factor and trying to find a way to get the ball in the hole.”

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: Texas faces Vandy before defending Big 12 crown

This weekend’s task at the PING/ASU Invitational would appear to be the Longhorns’ hardest of the spring, but it may be just what No. 31 Texas is looking for before the Big 12 Tournament next month.

The field features 17 teams, all ranked in the top 50, including No. 1 UCLA and four other top 10 teams, yet Texas has reason to keep its head up in Tempe, Ariz. this weekend.

In last year’s event, Texas powered its way to a top five finish, including two individual top 10 finishes from then-sophomore Madison Pressel and then-junior Nicole Vandermade. Pressel held a share of the lead after the first two rounds before finishing fourth overall.

“There’s a couple players that feel they may have left some shots out there last year,” head coach Martha Richards said. “This is a chance to go out there and see if we can be better.”

Following Pressel’s top five finish at the PING/ASU Invitational in 2011, she kept the momentum going, leading Texas to its third Big 12 Championship in school history and winning her first collegiate individual victory. Texas hopes memories of last year’s success can fuel them to a strong finish in 2012.

This spring has not been kind to Texas, which was once ranked in the top 10 nationally. After a sixth-place finish in their opening tournament in Florida, Texas has had to play through rain, shine, lightning and even hail in back-to-back tournaments, leaving putts and unfinished business on the course.

The Longhorns have been led by four different players this season, flexing their depth and experience, yet at the same time exposing their inconsistencies.

“If we just get a little better each day, it’s going to start showing up in the scores,” Richards said. “You just never know when it’s all going to click.”

Texas is looking to send off rival Texas A&M to the SEC with a bitter taste in its mouth.

After Texas defeated the Aggies by a mere three strokes for the team title in the 2011 Big 12 Championship and won the individual and team title at the Aggies’ own tournament in College Station in November, Texas A&M bounced back, besting Texas by 21 strokes in San Diego just two weeks ago. Round four’s bout this weekend should give either team some key momentum heading into next month’s final showdown.

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Longhorns head to Arizona looking for turnaround event

Women's Golf

Last spring, it was junior Madison Pressel. In November, it was senior Nicole Vandermade. Two weeks ago it was junior Haley Stephens. And this week, it was junior Desiree Dubreuil.

Dubreuil had her best tournament since coming to Texas, bursting onto the scene to finish a career best of 12th overall at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego. After starting Tuesday’s final round with a bogey on the first hole and four bogeys overall, Dubreuil stayed calm, finishing two birdies over the final seven holes to match her Monday total of 2-over-par.

The experienced Longhorns have had stellar showings individually but have failed to put together a very strong collective effort this spring. Dubreuil became the third different golfer to lead Texas this season. Texas finished 10th overall as a team, shooting 41-over-par, and 27 shots behind winner and third-ranked USC.

“As a team, I look at what do we need to work on collectively as a group,” said head coach Martha Richards. “I know they were frustrated and played hard the whole time.”

In November, Vandermade won the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, and soared to a top 10 ranking nationally following three top-10 finishes on the season. Coming into San Diego this week, Vandermade looked to capitalize on a familiar course where she had a strong tournament last year.

“[Last year] she managed her game really well, and this golf course allows her to have an advantage on the par 5s and a couple of the longer par 4s,” Richards said.

However, it was not Vandermade’s week, birdying only two of the 36 holes. Pressel finished strong down the stretch, grabbing two consecutive birdies to finish three strokes better than the first round.

The conditions were decent at best following heavy showers over the weekend, causing strong winds and wet greens.

“Everyone needs to work a lot on their short game,” Richards said. “It’s not that our short games are bad, but they just haven’t been good enough to help us.”

Texas heads out west again in about two weeks for their final tournament of the regular season in Tempe, Ariz.

Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: Dubreuil leads Horns with 12th-place finish

Women's Golf

Junior golfer Desiree Dubreuil has not seen tournament action since November, but it did not stop her from leading the Longhorns in day one of the Battle at Rancho Bernardo in San Diego.

Dubreuil had three birdies to go with 12 pars on Monday, leaving her at 2-over-par for the tournament and just five shots off the lead. Saturday showers left Sunday’s originally scheduled first round unplayable, leaving the tournament to a shortened two rounds. Texas’ most recent tournament was also shortened to two rounds due to lightning.

“We always make sure to not the take day off when it’s raining, so we are always prepared,” said head coach Martha Richards. “Last year, we played in some really difficult weather, getting hailed on, so we have to ready for anything.”

Tulane leads the tournament at 5-over-par, while Texas sits in 11th of 16 teams and 15 shots back after a tough front nine put the Longhorns in an early hole. Texas freshman Bertine Strauss is in 28th and just two shots back of Dubreuil.

Ironically, Dubreuil and Strauss are the only Texas players at the tournament this week that did not compete in last year’s event. Junior Madison Pressel and senior Nicole Vandermade struggled early before settling down on the back nine.

“This golf course is a great challenge,” Richards said. “It’s got some holes where you can be aggressive, and others that you have to be really patient and manage, playing to the fat part of the greens, and keep giving yourself great opportunities.”

Texas is just si sx shots back of Texas A&M, who is currently in sixth place. The last two tournaments, Texas has dropped down the standings in the second round of play, so it will be critical for them to get off to a strong start Tuesday.

“I think they we’re trying too hard the second day, and we just need to go out there and play our game,” Richards said.

“We just have to go out and try to make a move.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 as: Second day of tourney crucial for Longhorns