Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
UA golfers hope Lewis' success rubs off
Gaby Lopez, left, takes advice from Stacy Lewis Tuesday, June 18, 2013, at Pinnacle County Club in Rogers while playing the back nine holes together for practice as part of the Ladies Professional Golf Association's Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Tournament play begins Friday.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Stacy Lewis' victory Sunday at the North Texas LPGA Shootout provides more than merely momentum for the Arkansas women's golf team heading into the NCAA regionals.
The Razorbacks, seeded second to UCLA, will strive to finish among the top eight teams at the regional in Stillwater, Okla., and advance to the NCAA Women's Championships, which will be played May 20-23 in Tulsa.
The Razorbacks departed Fayetteville on Tuesday knowing that Lewis, a former NCAA champion at Arkansas, earned her ninth career title on the LPGA Tour with her six-shot victory last weekend at the North Texas Shootout.
For Arkansas seniors Emily Tubert and Emma Lavy, sophomores Gabriela Lopez and Regina Plasencia and freshman Summar Roachell, Lewis is not a distant star of Arkansas' past but a real person they know well as a volunteer coach whenever possible.
"The girls really look up to Stacy and the way she plays the game and her love for the Razorbacks," Arkansas Coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said.. "It gives them some good mojo heading into regionals this week. They are always excited to see her at the top of the leaderboard. Having the opportunity to see her play still excites me as a coach."
So does coaching this current team, which has won a program-tying record three tournaments this season, finished third in the SEC and been ranked as high as fourth in the Golfstat.com rankings.
"From one to five this is one of the best groups I have ever had," Estes-Taylor said. "Great people and great golfers."
It's a team blessed with two No. 1 type players. Lopez, the sophomore sensation, leads the team with a 71.45 stroke average while Tubert, the Razorbacks' No. 1 player from seasons past, is always a medalist candidate averaging 72.83.
For that matter, Estes-Taylor doesn't discount Plasencia or her two Arkansans, Lavy (Fayetteville) and Roachell (Conway), from winning anything they enter.
"I feel any one of my five girls could be in contention to win," Estes-Taylor said. "That's the exciting part as a coach, to have that kind of depth. As a coach, this is one of those groups you just dream about."
Unfortunately, many a coach's dream team has failed to survive the "just qualify" mentality that can accompany the regional qualifying tournament.
Estes-Taylor said she and assistant coach Mike Adams have taken that into account. They want their team to go after UCLA, No. 3 seed Alabama and the rest of the field in an effort to win the regional title in Stillwater. Then they will turn their attention to the NCAA Championship.
"Mike and I have talked a lot over the years about keeping this week the same," Estes-Taylor said. "It's been great for us this year, and we are not going to waver from that."
Sports on 05/07/2014