The Oklahoma State women’s golf team will have a chance to win the university’s first national championship for a female sport.
The Cowgirls beat Duke, defending (2019) national champions, by a 5-0 decision in the semifinals Tuesday.
At the very least, this Cowgirl team will match the best finish for the program in an NCAA tournament – having finished as runner-up in the 2004 national tournament.
They will be the first Cowgirl program to compete in a national championship game/match since the 2016 women’s team, which lost by one point to Stanford in the national tournament in Tulsa.
“Obviously, this is what you’ve been preparing for with all those 6:30 a.m. practices in January and February in 40 degrees and all that kind of stuff,” said Cowgirl coach Greg Robertson, who played golf at Oklahoma State under Mike Holder. “But I’ve said it before, I walked into a great situation here, solid players with a great recruiting class that I just happen to be lucky enough to get thrown into that situation.”
This is the first official postseason for the Cowgirls with Robertson at the helm, with the pandemic halting sports last spring in his first year at his alma mater.
Several of the Cowgirls on the squad – including the first three off the tee in sophomores Maja Stark and Isabella Fierro and junior Lianna Bailey – were either on the squad already or were signed with the program when Robertson took the reins.
And when he first returned to Stillwater, he had to focus on recruiting those players to stick with the program before looking toward his next class of recruits – which included the two other starters this weekend in freshmen Rina Tatematsu and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard.
So for those Cowgirls who believed in the new coaching staff – which also includes assistant coach Maddi Swaney – reaching the national championship match two years later reinforced their decisions.
“They’re such an amazing coaching staff,” Fierro said. “They bring the best out of each other, no matter what. They’re our coaches, but at the same time they’re our dad and mom, pretty much.”
And it was those longterm Cowgirls who set the tone for the team in the semifinals, starting with Stark as the first Cowgirl onto the course.
She won the first two holes of her match, and never gave up the lead against Gina Kim, ultimately rolling to a 4-and-3 victory to OSU’s first point of the match.
“I admire Maja so much, she’s an amazing golfer, but also she’s so mature,” Fierro said. “She’s so mature, and I look up to her every day. …
“Winning a national championship is a group thing, but then you’re so focused on you and your match that every time that Maja was playing in front of me, there were times she was looking and we’d kind of wave at each other like, ‘OK, let’s go!’ We were there for each other and having that mentality, having Maja on the team – thinking that she might go pro kind of makes me cry because I’m like, ‘Don’t leave us, please! You’re a big part of our team.’ Having her here is just a blessing.”
Right behind her, sophomore Isabella Fierro followed Stark in getting the Cowgirls a second point with a 3-and-1 win over Erica Shepherd.
Like Stark, Fierro never trailed in her match – halving the first three holes before claiming the lead and never relinquishing it.
“They’re our two top players,” Robertson said of Stark and Fierro. “They set their own pace, and then our two freshmen played solid in stroke play, so we just put them at the back end.”
With Oklahoma State claiming the first two points of the match, the Cowgirls found themselves in perfect position as the remaining three matches were leaning in favor of the Pokes.
Freshman Rina Tatematsu clinched the victory with a 3-and-2 win over Phoebe Brinker, while junior Lianna Bailey and freshman Maddison Hinson-Tolchard were 1-up in each of their matches when the final point was scored.
Tatematsu, who steadily built on a lead she claimed after eight holes, gave a point back to Brinker with a bogey on No. 15, but a birdie on No. 16 secured her match and that for the team.
“She has experienced a lot, and she’s doing amazing things,” said Fierro, who watched Tatematsu clinch from just off the 16th green. “I don’t know if she knows how great of a player she is.”
The Cowgirls had to go through Auburn, the SEC champions, in the quarterfinal to set themselves up for the match with the Blue Devils.
OSU won that match 4-1 with Stark getting a 2-and-1 win, coupled with 3-and-2 victories by Bailey and Tatematsu. Fierro went to an extra hole in her match, while Hinson-Tolchard lost 2-and-1.
The Cowgirls will face Ole Miss – which beat Arizona, 3-2, in the other semifinal – in the championship match, which is scheduled to start at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, and will be televised on the Golf Channel (Suddenlink channel 44) starting at 4 p.m. In the lineup ceremony, Robertson did not make any changes to his order – rolling out Stark and Fierro, followed by Bailey and then Tatematsu and Hinson-Tolchard.