• June 28, 2024

Spring Season in Review: Women’s Golf

Spring Season in Review: Women’s Golf

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The spring season was a time for growth for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros women’s golf team.

The fall season forced the Vaqueros to change up their plans and that allowed the newcomers to jump right into action and get their feet wet in collegiate golf.

Camila HerreraNatalia Rodriguez, and Preston Saiz found themselves in the lineup in the spring and that jump started their careers here at UTRGV.

“The spring season was still a time for growth,” UTRGV Head Coach Bryan Novoa said. “We played challenging golf courses and growing with three young freshmen in the lineup. Having the experiences that we had for the coming three years for them allows me to go to the word growth. They have this toolbox and now they are learning how to use those tools. I am really proud of the fact that they do have the ability and the growth mindset that I enjoy to create the opportunity for success.”

The Vaqueros played in just five tournaments this spring as they competed at the Texas State Invitational, Islander Classic, Vaqueros Invitational, Bobcat Desert Classic, and the WAC Championship.

Usually, a spring schedule sees around seven or eight tournaments, but Coach Novoa thought it would be better to allow the team to continue to get their rounds in but also have the opportunity to grow with each tournament.

“The first five or six seasons I was here, I tried to load in six or seven tournaments,” Novoa said. “I tried something different this past season, and I think from the standpoint of playing five or six events instead was healthier. It allowed more growing, more learning, more development. I think we took a major step forward with establishing a fine line in the sand with our culture and our mindset that we have here and will have moving forward.”

The trio of freshmen along with juniors Madi OzunaCatherine Flores, and Cristina Galban had opportunities to play in the fall and spring. Not all of them had played the types of courses that they saw this past season and especially for the freshman, they had to learn on the fly.

They all took their bumps and had their successes but they were all valuable lessons as those learning opportunities have helped to develop them to get them ready for next season and beyond.

“The learning curve is the challenging part,” Novoa said. “Especially when you have never really been exposed to golf courses like the ones in Texas or Arizona or even the different conditions. I see so much potential in these players that my bar is always set pretty high, and my standards are higher. At the end of the day, they are ahead of where they are supposed to be mentally, emotionally and with their golf IQ, which we really worked on in the spring. I am really proud of that because those skills will lead them in a great direction over the next three years.”

Last year, the Vaqueros set program records and set a new bar for the program that they thought would help propel them forward. Sometimes things outside of our control changes those plans.

Coach Novoa believes that all he and the program can do is continue to move forward and that what the young group experienced this spring will only make them better going forward.

“The way I look at it is that they all got to play a good number of rounds this spring,” Novoa said. “We sat down in the fall, and had it all planned out to have a great year, but we rolled into the spring with some unfortunate circumstances and then all of a sudden we are down three people and plans changed and forced some of these young student-athletes into action. I hope we are sitting in this room next year saying that I am glad that happened to us because it built our foundation, our character for the future of women’s golf here. It will be a very valuable experience for these young ladies.”

While the likes of Herrera, Saiz, and Rodriguez learning so much this past year, it helped that they had senior Mercedes Vega to be their example.

Since arriving in 2020, Vega has worked hard to find her consistency on the course and in the classroom. Vega has showed her teammates what it is to be a Vaquero and that legacy will help propel the program going forward.

“The way I found Mercedes was on YouTube,” Novoa said. “She was hitting shots on a video, and I was trying to figure out how to get a hold of her. I found her contact and got to build that relationship for six to eight months. The four years that she was here was awesome. She played almost 40 events and was a contributor 90% of the time. She grew right before my eyes in a beautiful way. She matured not only in golf but in life too so quickly that I am really proud her. Her contribution to this team and to society is such a beautiful thing.”

Coach Novoa believes it was a good spring season and even though it didn’t work out exactly how he had planned, he is excited about the fall already.

He knows that they will be much improved next season and with the type of schedule he has lined up for the fall and with the continued impact of the Vaqueros Golf Center, that the moment to take that next step is close.

“I am driven,” Novoa said. “My personality makes me obsessed with competitive golf and I always will be. No one is more driven than I am. Not anyone in college athletics is more driven than I am. I often find myself going down the rabbit hole of Instagram and you hear John Calipari talk about motivation. I don’t need any of that because my belief system is so strong. I do want it to be Aug. 18 and I do want my student-athletes here right now. I sit here and as a coach you always think you have the answers but it’s about executing the plan, making the correct adjustments in the moment. We have never had a schedule like the one we are going to have in the fall. We haven’t been in a place where we have millions of dollars to back us up, with the likes of the Vaqueros Golf Center, in our pursuit of success. We have that now and the time is now. We aren’t going to over think this, we are just going to take care of business.”

The fall of 2024 will be here before we know it.

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