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TCU transfer Sabina Pena transitioning back to competition

TCU transfer Sabina Pena transitioning back to competition

September 26
18:38 2017

After missing the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Sabina Pena is back on the golf course with her sights set on a breakout year.

Pena, who attended Sharyland High School, began her golf career at 11 years old. The game runs in the family, as her father has been golfing for the majority of his life. Pena picked up the game around the same time as her brother, and the two started to follow in their father’s footsteps.

By her junior year, Pena accepted an offer to golf at Texas Christian University. But after arriving on campus, she struggled to develop a relationship with TCU coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin. Her first year in Fort Worth ended up being her last.

“We did not get along and I wasn’t growing as a golfer or as a person,” Pena said. “I did not fit in with the team and that led to me not to trying my best in the classroom or on the course.”

Pena was in search of a new place to call home, but did not want to leave Texas and was hopeful to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. North Texas stood out from the crowd, and Pena reached out to coach Michael Akers shortly after he was hired.

With Akers in the process of laying the foundation for a new program and the new Maridoe Golf Club facility nearing completion, the move to Denton made a lot of sense.

“Coach Akers was good with communicating with me from the start,” Pena said. “He seemed like he believed in me from the very first time we spoke. That, plus me getting to see the new practice facility sold the school well for me.”

Akers was just as sold on the idea of a Big 12 prospect joining the roster. Pena may not have enjoyed her time at TCU, but she was still able to put together a solid freshman year. She competed in seven tournaments, and shot a career-low 215 at the Big 12 Championship.

Akers wanted to get Pena on campus as soon as possible.

“Her top 5 finish at the Big 12 Championship really stood out,” Akers said. “She was a blue-chip prospect out of high school. Her personality also was very laid back, but at the same time she wants to do well and also wants the team to do well.”

The Mean Green didn’t have any scholarship money for Pena last season as she redshirted, but the program made enough of an impact on her to clinch a commitment.

“Having to miss the season felt boring and I missed competing,” Pena said. “But it pushed me to practice and come back better than ever.”

Pena is still getting back into the swing of competition this season after missing last season, but the potential for a successful career is there. She feels more comfortable with the coaching staff and team already, making for a much healthier atmosphere on the course.

“I’ve tried to help her with her transition to Denton,” assistant coach Kendra Little said. “I want to make her feel welcomed and be there for her. I also let her know she is appreciated, and that is the foundation of building that relationship.”

Pena returned to the course in the team’s season opener and posted an 11-over-par in the Minnesota Invitational, and followed that performance up with a 20-over-par finish at the Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational.

After the slow start, Akers is confident a turnaround is imminent.

“She has not played up to her full potential yet,” Akers said. “She is getting back to competitive form and I feel she will be breaking par soon.”

Pena is focused on embracing her new role with the Mean Green, and hopes she can move on from her time in Fort Worth. For a former top high school prospect who placed third in a American Junior Golf Association event as a senior, this may be just the beginning.

“I just want to do my best and learn from each of my mistakes,” Pena said. “I know that with this new opportunity I can do great things.”

Featured Image: Integrative studies junior Sabina Pena transferred to UNT after a year at Texas Christian University. Pena played in the Big 12 championship in 2016 tying for 5th place. Cameron Roe 

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Malik Wright

Malik Wright

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