The New Mexico State University women’s golf team is preparing for the NCAA Regionals on May 9 after winning its seventh Western Athletic Conference championship on April 20 in Kerrville, Texas.
In the NCAA selection show on April 27, the NCAA announced that the Aggies are heading to the Albuquerque Regional. The team has not traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a regional since the 2016-2017 academic year when the Aggies finished in 14th place.
This is the team’s seventh WAC title in eight years and the program’s 17th overall title win. Head coach Danny Bowen said he believes compartmentalization was a skill the team needed to utilize in order to win the championship.
“The main things we see in these types of wins is the heart and overcoming adversity when challenged,” Bowen said.
Bowen also said the group has been very good at making solid team pars when needed and excels skill-wise.
“Down the stretch the last day [of the WAC tournament], the golf course was playing pretty difficult and we needed to limit our mistakes to win. The girls definitely were able to hang on for the win because of that.”
“It will be an extremely strong field of 12 teams, so the best we can do is continue to go out and play our own games and only control what we can control. Wherever that places us, we’ll be content.”
The ability to set aside the outcomes of previous tournaments is a major factor Bowen said contributes to the success of the team in the WAC tournament, and that this clean headspace is also crucial for the upcoming three days at regionals.
To see similar results at the NCAA Regionals, Bowen said the team has to go beyond the level of competition they have displayed thus far.
“It will be an extremely strong field of 12 teams, so the best we can do is continue to go out and play our own games and only control what we can control. Wherever that places us, we’ll be content,” Bowen said.
Practicing together four days a week is one of the strategies coach Bowen brings into play. He said it sets a good tone for competition. A large amount of the preparation time is spent on the short game and practicing drills.
“The only time we really work on skills is when the girls come to us as coaches and ask for help,” Bowen said.
Sophomore First Team All-WAC selection Alison Gastelum told the Las Cruces Sun-News, “I honestly think we can do pretty good. We’ve been working really hard this past month, and we’ve been improving a lot as a team. It’s all about putting all of our [individual] scores together.” Gastelum tied for fifth place in the tournament.
One of the largest obstacles Bowen and his team have to overcome is their budget. Coach Bowen said doing more with less is necessary because they are limited by their operating budget including scheduling, equipment, travel and other expenses.
“We have to be diligent in bringing in student athletes that relish being the underdog, that have a chip on their shoulder, so that when we have the opportunity to go out and beat higher-ranked teams, we can accomplish that,” Bowen said.
The team was named the No. 12 seed and will be competing alongside Oregon, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Louisville, Georgia, TCU, Oklahoma, Northern Arizona, Sam Houston State and North Texas.
Bowen stressed how big of an accomplishment winning the conference championship was for the team, but now the focus is on having fun and playing at their absolute best in Albuquerque to reach Nationals.