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Taking Flight: A look at the women’s golf team’s historic season

Taking Flight: A look at the women’s golf team’s historic season

Taking Flight: A look at the women’s golf team’s historic season
May 28
13:30 2021

After the 2019-20 season’s abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the women’s golf team made history in its 2020-21 slate. A trailblazing squad, the team won its first conference title and achieved its highest national ranking ever. North Texas also qualified for NCAA Regionals for the second time in program history and the first as an automatic qualifier after winning the Conference USA title.  “It’s really been a wild [season],” junior Audrey Tan said. “From being fortunate to play last fall to having such a successful spring season.” Starting with September’s Schooner Fall Classic hosted by the University of Oklahoma, the Mean Green played seven regular season tournaments. North Texas finished No. 4 at the Schooner (26-over-par), two shots behind Oklahoma and Texas Christian University (+24) who tied for No. 2 as Baylor University paced the field at 7-under-par. Meanwhile, fifth-year senior Lauren Cox took No. 3 individually. “[The team] had a lot of high finishes against a lot of good teams,” Cox said. North Texas carried the momentum throughout its season, tallying top-five finishes against highly-ranked opponents at the University of Texas-San Antonio’s Maryb S. Kauth Invitational and North Texas’ home event, The Bruzzy. In finishing No. 3 at The Bruzzy, the Mean Green topped Oklahoma, TCU and then-No. 17 the University of Houston. By the time of the C-USA tournament, North Texas had all but secured an at-large bid to the NCAA women’s golf tournament with a No. 33 national ranking (the top 50 teams are typically guaranteed bids). This eased pressure on the team at the competition and North Texas won by 12 strokes as Tan took the individual title at 9-under-par. “It’s very special to me to know we made program history,” Tan said. “How far I’ve come, it’s a testament to all the hard work and everything I’ve done.” On a hot streak and ready to compete on the national stage, the Mean Green then set sights on competing at the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional tournament on May 10-12. The first two days of the tournament were canceled due to inclement weather and course conditions. On the final day, players showed up to the course expecting to play and waited for four hours before hearing the tourney had been canceled altogether.

“We were convinced we were going to play,” Tan said. “Everyone had put their bags on the cart and thought we were going to receive news [the team] was going to play.”

Instead, North Texas learned the final round had been canceled and the top six ranked teams automatically advanced to the next round, leaving the Mean Green eliminated without hitting a single shot. With the cancelation, Cox’s final opportunity for NCAA tournament success was taken away.

“We thought [Lauren’s career] was over without getting to play in Baton Rouge,” Akers said.

North Texas’ season was not quite finished, however. After seeing the tournament canceled, Sam “Riggs” Bozoian of Barstool Sports decided to organize a tournament for eliminated squads called the Let Them Play Classic and it came together over the next few days. “It was amazing to have the opportunity [to play at the LTP] after such an emotional downfall with NCAA Regionals,” Akers said. “The next day, [Barstool Sports] put out a tweet and I think it was the [East Tennessee State University] coach sent it to me.” Making the most of its unique opportunity, North Texas won the LTP by seven strokes over Purdue University. Additionally, Tan took the individual title in topping Houston’s Ariana Saenz by two strokes. Cox finished her final round of collegiate golf tied for No. 4 at one-under-par. For Cox and Akers, the tournament was the end of a player-coach relationship that turned the course of the women’s golf team over the last five years. “I wouldn’t have stayed at North Texas if it wasn’t for Coach Akers,” Cox said. “Five years ago I didn’t think [the team’s success] was possible, and he made it possible. I loved my experience [at North Texas], and I wish I could do it all over again.” Barstool Sports set up a video chat screen for senior golfers’ parents which allowed Cox to share a moment with Akers and her parents after finishing her final round of college golf. “It was cool, I held it together a little better there and personally I was able to thank [her parents] for entrusting me with Lauren for five years,” Akers said. “[Cox is] a great golfer, but she’s just as good a person as you’ll ever find. It was great for me to share in that moment too and I thought it was just an awesome idea they came up with.” Although Cox’s departure is a significant loss for the team, Tan is confident in the future of the team.

“I’m sure this season set a tone,” Tan said. “I know we’ll be losing Lauren [Cox], and that’s big shoes to fill, but I’m sure [the team] is already motivated to have another great year.”

Head coach Michael Akers talks to junior golfer Patricia Sinolungan during The Bruzzy tournament on March 28, 2021. Image by Zach Thomas

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Reed Smith

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