May 5, 2014
• WATCH OERHLEIN NEWS CONFERENCE VIDEO
MADISON, Wis. -- UW women's golf Coach Todd Oehrlein spoke with the media May 5 prior to taking his team to the NCAA West Regional held May 8-10 at Tumble Creek Club in Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Washington.
THE MODERATOR: For the second consecutive season, the women's golf team has been chosen for the NCAA Regional. Badgers are seeded 16th out of 24 teams in the West region. Play begins on Thursday at Tumble Creek Club in Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Washington. Top eight teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championships on May 22nd and 23rd in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
COACH OEHRLEIN: Thanks, Brian. As you mentioned, we're headed out west for our regional. And we're thrilled. We're thrilled to be playing. Really proud of the team. Very, very excited for our seniors.
We'll have two seniors in our lineup. We had five seniors on our team this year, and all of them have made a very special impact on our program. They have left a very positive mark on what our golf team is about and what they've accomplished. So I'm proud of all of them and want to thank them.
As Brian mentioned, the regional is 24 teams. It's a tremendous field. It's very strong, deep. We'll have to play very solid golf to move through, but we're capable of that, and we're excited about that opportunity.
We leave tomorrow; practice round on Wednesday, and tournament starts on Thursday morning. We are very happy for our program and very proud of the players.
Q. This is the second straight regional appearance, and you're a higher seed this year than last year. Talk about the progression that your team has made since its last NCAA appearance.
COACH OEHRLEIN: I think from a progression standpoint, we were a little more consistent early in the spring. That is the biggest difference from a seeding standpoint. We got tremendous leadership this year. We had a player who made a great impact as a freshman. That gave us a nice lift, gave us a great boost. So that just kind of kept things moving forward.
I kind of thought that would be the case. I hoped that would be the case coming off of last year, having the upperclassmen returning with four of the five that took part in the postseason last year as returning players. So I felt confident that that would be the case. But just more than anything, from a higher seed perspective, it's just much being more consistent early this spring.
Q. Todd, how difficult is it for a collegiate team this far north to qualify back-to-back years in an NCAA Tournament when you think about all the golf that's south and west?
COACH OEHRLEIN: I think it's a challenge, but I think it also needs to be your expectation. That's what we work towards. So is it certainly a warm weather sport and does it play to their (southern schools) advantage or their benefit? Certainly. You have to admit that and you have to recognize that. But there are things in the off-season that we can do to make sure we take steps as well from a player development standpoint.
So we have a tremendous focus on fundamentals. We have a tremendous focus on development in the areas that we're capable of developing. Our indoor center has helped a great deal. And one of the things I tell our team is that in the winter time, we may not have the opportunity to be out on the golf course playing holes and working on a lot of different shots, but there are things we can do from a fundamental skill set. We do a lot of great putting work in our center. The things that we can do, they become very good at and they have to become our strengths and they have to become our identity. I think our players have done a great job in that area.
Q. You noticed that this consistency was there early in the spring. Did it continue to build, or are you saying that you're not quite as good as where you'd like to be hopefully right now heading into the tournament?
COACH OEHRLEIN: No, I think we're moving in the right direction right now. A really important part to our season was early this winter, even going back to the very first tournament we played down in Central Florida's invitational. It was a really strong field, very heavily stacked with southern climate schools, so they're a little further along, and we finished that golf tournament really, really positively. We shot 285 in the final round, made a nice jump in the standings, moved into a top half finish, and then kind of carried that momentum with us into Arizona where we finished third in another strong field. We put up a great number, 5-under par for the 54 holes as a team, 5-under.
So that kind of stabilized things from a ranking standpoint and a seeding perspective for us. We didn't have this early spring slide in the rankings where then you're trying to play catch up the rest of the way. So that was a very stabilizing part of our season.
Then we went into the middle of our season, and we were consistent. We played pretty solid. We had a little bit of a roller coaster ride in a couple of events, but I think we're playing much better from that standpoint.
Right now we've learned from some of the challenges, some of the things we faced. We fought some bad weather in two tournaments back-to-back, and that put a lot of pressure on our golf games, but they handled that and they learned from that. I thought how we handled the wind and some of the challenges in the Big Ten Tournament I thought was really encouraging. I'm excited about that going forward.
Q. You said that you have four of your starting five back from last year's NCAA Championship. How much does last year's performance, getting to that level, drive them this weekend to wanting to get back?
COACH OEHRLEIN: I think there's a comfort to start with and a confidence going in there that I think they feel and that they share. More than anything, and I felt this last year as well, and maybe it was something that they had learned from the Notre Dame experience, the previous Regional appearance (in 2011), was that they weren't just satisfied. They weren't just comfortable being there.
It's a great accomplishment. And you don't overlook your competition at all, and I know that they aren't, but I think they have a confidence to them that, if they go and play well and they're consistent and they're steady and they take advantage of some scoring opportunities when they present themselves, that they can be in that mix and they can be there.
I think that's something that I felt that last year. I thought that was the approach. And to see them actually realize that. So now they certainly buy into it and understand that. That's probably the biggest impact and that's what has meant the most.
Q. All five of the travel party have led in a tournament or two all season, which is a great balance. But Brooke Ferrell, who's about to set the freshman scoring record, has really come on of late. What about her performance?
COACH OEHRLEIN: She played tremendous at the conference championship. I was really happy for her and very proud of her. When I speak of pride, though, I was probably more proud of how she handled some situations and some moments in our tournament out at Napa (Calif.) when we were playing out at Silverado.
She had come off a couple of tournaments during the middle of the season over our spring break where she didn't play as well as she had hoped. It wasn't terrible, but it just wasn't as crisp as she would have liked. So how do you handle some of that adversity, and learn from those experiences? And then some of those moments in that Silverado event, where there were moments where the round maybe could have went sideways a little bit, and it never did. She handled it really positively and continued to compete and compete the right way and played solidly there.
I was really proud of that, and we had some conversations and talked about that. And then she just continued to build on that momentum, and that carried through into the Big Ten Championship.
She's a really strong player. She's just very strong and has a lot of momentum. (She's) very confident right now. The round she played in the final round at the Big Tens is just outstanding. That's a hard golf course. It's a great setup, championship, and with difficult conditions. And for her to shoot 68 and put up the lowest number (that day) in the tournament is something that she should be very proud of.
Q. You've gone to regionals three of the last four years. You're about to set the school scoring record. Can you talk about the progression of your program?
COACH OEHRLEIN: The progression of the program, we've had great, I don't know how else to say this; it may sound funny, but we've had great practice players. We've had great workers. It goes back. Jessie Gerry and Ellie Arkin were that way, and Lindsay Danielson (who graduated) last year was that way. And it goes back to players before that, but they've kind of established that.
This group of seniors, the five that are finishing, they're no different. They come in and they have great discipline and they have great preparation and great habits. As a result, they make progress and they continue to improve and continue to develop.
What's been nice about it from a program standpoint is that then the new players come in, and young players, the freshman class that comes in, that's what they see and that becomes their expectation.
So the biggest key to it has just been great leadership and great examples and tremendous discipline in how they approach things.