Nicole Vandermade

Women's Golf

Longhorns freshman Bertrine Strauss practices her putting prior to the Big 12 Championship. Strauss finished in eighth place.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Just days before the first round of the Big 12 Championship, junior Madison Pressel was ruled out with a right shoulder injury that persisted for months and finally prevented her from playing. Last year’s individual champion was sure to be a critical piece to Texas’ defense of a conference title, but they would have to go on without her.

It didn’t matter.

Texas dominated the field on Sunday, scoring 8-over-par 288 as a team to jump from sixth to finish second overall as a team. Only Oklahoma’s 36-hole lead was too much to overcome.

After a slow start left Texas in eighth after the first round, four of the five Longhorns shot their best rounds of the weekend on the final day, including junior Haley Stephens’ even-par 70 that led the team.

The only Longhorn who failed to do so was senior leader Nicole Vandermade, whose second record 1-under-par 69 was hard to top, and tied for the best single round of the entire weekend.

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

Vandermade finished sixth individually, while freshman Bertine Strauss finished eighth.

For the third tournament this spring, the Longhorns experienced inclement weather that caused play to follow an abnormal schedule and several delays. Although Texas had not played particularly well through the rain, they used their previous experiences to their advantage for when it truly counted.

“I think what’s great about all the experiences we’ve had is they should prepare us well for whatever we run into from here on out,” said head coach Martha Richards. “We’ve played in everything. I think they’re starting to realize that they can play no matter what the conditions are, and they just have to go out there take care of their business.”

Despite failing to win their second straight Big 12 title, the Longhorns put themselves in a great position for Regional play in two weeks, which will be announced Monday.

“We have to continue to take care of our business or not get caught up in what everyone else is doing,” Richards said. “Take the results as data, and let it motivate you to get better.”

Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Longhorns unable to defend their title

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

Women's Golf

In arguably Texas’ toughest tournament of the year, the Longhorns rode a hot second round to finish seventh overall as a team.

After a solid opening round that had Texas in sixth place, it hoped not to falter on day two.

Head coach Martha Richards tweeted before Saturday’s round, “Beautiful day for some low scores ... Let’s have a great day!”

On Saturday’s second round, freshman Bertine Strauss shot a 2-under par (69) to leap into fourth individually. Solid rounds from senior Nicole Vandermade and junior Haley Stephens had the Longhorns in good shape for Sunday’s final round. Strauss, Vandermade and Stephens were each in the top 10 individually and had Texas tied with Texas A&M for 2nd going into Sunday’s final round, only behind No. 1 UCLA.

“Feels good to shoot some red numbers again,” Strauss said, who shot four birdies on the front nine to climb up the leaderboard Saturday.

Vandermade had only one blemish on her card Sunday going to the par-4 15th tee, a hole which she birdied on Friday and Saturday. Vandermade put up a triple-bogey, and closed with a bogey on the 18th, to finish 15th overall.

Stephens shot a 75 in her final round to finish 11th overall.

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

Despite being known for its sunny skies and beautiful weather, San Diego has not been kind to the women’s golf team the last two years. The Longhorns’ first round was postponed Sunday due to unusual hail and inclement weather at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo Inn. The teams will tee off today instead.

At last year’s event, then-junior Nicole Vandermade had a great outing, finishing 13th overall to lead Texas to a team finish of 8 out of the 18 teams competing. Vandermade struggled at the last tournament in South Carolina, but she should feel better about this familiar course.

“This course favors Nicole because there are some par 5s that she can reach in two [strokes],” head coach Martha Richards said. “There’s a lot of golf courses where Nicole doesn’t get to use her driver because she hits it so long, but this golf course allows her to have an advantage on the par 5s and a couple of the longer par 4s.”

Richards said he understood the team’s frustration in trying to get their scores on the board. “They played hard the whole time and never gave up, so I know we are very close to playing good golf,” he said.

Fellow Big 12 rival Texas A&M is among the six other teams currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns in the field this week. The last time Texas saw the Aggies was in the 2011 season opener in Bryan, Texas, where the Longhorns took home the championship trophy, besting Texas A&M by 36 strokes. Texas A&M has finished in the top five in four of the last five tournaments, and is coming off their first win of the season in Hawaii.

“Hopefully the last couple weeks of work will pay off. You just never know when it’s all going to click,” Richards said. “If we just get a little better each day, it’s going to start showing up in the scores.”

Women's Golf

Who: Women’s Golf

What: Darius Rucker Intercollegiate

When: March 2-4

Where: Hilton Head, S.C.

What to look for: No. 19 Texas tees off against five of the nation’s top 25 opponents in the second tournament of the spring, including No. 2 Alabama.

Star Watch: Senior Nicole Vandermade is looking for her third consecutive top 10 finish against some of the nation’s top golfers. Vandermade has ascended the ranks to as high as No. 7 individually in the country this season and currently sits at No. 17. She will be tested this weekend against four of the nation’s top 10 golfers.

Last Time: After a strong opening round at the UCF Challenge, Texas struggled in the second round, dropping them five places in the standings. The Longhorns scraped back in the final round with one of the field’s best rounds to finish 9th and in the top-half of the field. Vandermade finished 9th overall individually.

What’s on the Line: Although there will not be any current Big 12 opponents competing at this tournament, the defending conference champs must reassert their prowess as No. 20 Baylor, No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 28 Texas Tech are right on Texas’ heels. Baylor topped Texas by 26 strokes at the UCF Challenge just three weeks ago, finishing second overall. Future Big 12 opponent TCU will be in the field this weekend.

The Course: Long Cove Club golf course is known for its beautiful, but also challenging holes. Located on Hilton Head Island on the Atlantic coast, the par-71 6,160-yard course has ranked in the top 100 courses to play by Golf Digest for the last thirty years.

Women's Golf Preview

Senior Nicole Vandermade, lining up a putt, leads Texas at 2-over-par (146) through two days at the UCF Challenge, seven strokes behind the lead.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Despite unusually wintry conditions in Sorrento, Fla., Texas finds itself in the middle of the pack after the second of three rounds of the UCF Challenge. In Texas’ first tournament in over three months, it didn’t take long to shake the rust off for senior Nicole Vandermade and the rest of the Longhorns. Texas ended the first round shooting four-over-par (292) in a tie for sixth place out of the 18 teams who played Sunday.

Coming off her first collegiate win in November, Vandermade was one of only 12 players on Sunday to shoot under par, posting a one-under-par (71), showing she can play with the best of them in any conditions.

“For someone like Nicole, who is a very long hitter, it requires some patience and management,” said Texas head coach Martha Richards. “She’s gonna have to be patient and understand that she has an advantage, even though she’s not hitting driver off the tee every hole.”

Currently ranked 15th nationally, the Longhorns hold the second-highest ranking in the field, only behind No. 3 Auburn.

However, the Longhorns didn’t fare as well on Monday, shooting 14-over-par (306). After starting the day only four shots back of Baylor, the tournament’s leader after day one, Texas struggled to make shots on the back nine, ending the day in 11th place, 29 shots back of Auburn, who is currently on top of the leaderboard. Individually, Texas is still in the hunt, with Vandermade only seven shots back of the leader while junior Madison Pressel is 10 shots off the pace.

Ironically, Texas played much better on Sunday when temperatures were in the 30s and 40s and winds whirled the ball all over the course.

“You just try to remind them that when it’s cooler out, the ball doesn’t go as far,” Richards said. “You have to remind them of the weather conditions so they don’t get frustrated and they just focus on the task at hand.”

All five players scored better in the first round than the second round, but should have a fighting chance Tuesday for the final round. When asked what her ideal golf conditions would be, coach Richards simply said, “75 [degrees] and sunny.” Tuesday’s forecast calls for a high of 78 and sunny skies.

Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Horns hoping to bounce back in tourney's last day

Women's golf

(File photo)

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

After an extended off-season, Texas looks to get back into tournament form when they travel to Sorrento, Florida for the UCF Challenge this weekend.

In the final tournament of the fall, the Longhorns, ranked 10th nationally by GolfWeek, cruised to a 12-stroke victory in the annual Betsy Rawls Invitational, led by senior Nicole Vandermade and junior Madison Pressel. The Texas pair finished first and second individually, giving Vandermade her first career collegiate victory.

“It feels amazing,” Vandermade said. “I’ve been working really hard. I knew my game was there. We are getting more and more confident with each tournament.”

Heading into the spring, the defending Big 12 Champs are looking to keep the momentum going and improve on last year, when they fell just short of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. With four starters returning from 2010-11, an older squad should keep the Longhorns on the right track.

“It’s always a good thing to have more experience,” said head coach Martha Richards. “They’re just that more comfortable because they’ve been there and they know what to expect.”

In the 2011 UCF Challenge, the Longhorns finished fifth behind eventual NCAA finalist Coastal Carolina. However, following a three month absence from competitive play, Richards likes what she sees out of her team.

“We’ve come back just as ready as I’ve seen them to play going into the spring and I think that has to do with just having a more experienced team,” Richards said. “We’ve practiced hard. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen at practice.”

The Sorrento weather forecast looks clear, but should heat up into more ideal conditions for the final round Tuesday. Playing in Austin year-round, the Longhorns have learned how to play in fickle weather and should be prepared for the sporadic and chilly conditions Sunday.

“You have to remind them of the weather conditions so they don’t get frustrated and they just focus on the task at hand,” Richards said. “I think the biggest challenge is getting back into your tournament toughness and your focus in competitive rounds, and that’s what we’ve tried to work on.”

After missing the NCAA Championships in 2011 for the first time since Richards’ arrival in 2007, Texas is primed to get back to the May championships, but before that, they must have a strong showing in 2012’s first contest.

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Team aims to start spring with victory in Florida

Haley Stephens hits a shot in the LonghornsÂ’ final tournament on Wednesday. Texas ended its fall season on a high note, capturing the Betsy Rawls Invitational.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday marked the last day of the fall season for the Longhorns, and it ended exactly how they wanted it to — with a win at the Betsy Rawls Invitational.

Battling high winds, Texas finished with a final overall score of 880, +16. The team cruised through the final round to finish 12 strokes ahead of the runner-ups Florida, Tulsa and Pepperdine, who all tied for second.

This is the second tournament win of the season for the Longhorns and the first time they have won their home invitational since 1999. Furthering their success in the Longhorn Invitational, senior Nicole Vandermade won the tournament individually. It was her first collegiate career win, and it couldn’t have been better for her.

“It feels amazing,” Vandermade said. “It has been a long time coming. I’ve been working really hard. I knew my game was there.”

It was even better for her doing it on her home course.
“It is awesome,” Vandermade said. “My parents are both here and all my peers are here in addition to the whole team. It feels amazing.”

Junior Madison Pressel came in second place individually, only a stroke behind Vandermade. Junior Katelyn Sepmoree finished the tournament at 13 over par, tied for No. 35, while juniors Desiree Dubreuil and Haley Stephens finished tied for 39th and 47th places, respectively.

Fifth-year head coach Martha Richards couldn’t be prouder of her teams’ second season victory.

“I thought they did a great job battling the wind,” Richards said. “It was tough out there the last two days. The greens are fast and the golf course played pretty fair. It was a great test. I was really pleased with their patience and perseverance. I think that made all the difference for us.” 

Printed on Thursday, November 3, 2011 as: Horns cap season with win, take Betsy Rawls Invitational