Former Lady Bulldogs golfer transitioning as a Jaguar
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Adjusting to life in college is not always a smooth transition, but University of Houston-Victoria freshman golfer Olivia Esparza is well prepared.
During her time at Yoakum, Esparza honed her skills on four Lady Bulldog teams that advanced to the Class 3A State Golf Tournament.
As a member of the Jaguars golf team, Esparza has taken her game to the next level and against quality competition like the teams UHV competed against in the opening round of the Claud Jacobs Intercollegiate Tournament.
"She's adjusting," said Jaguars head coach Brian Williamson. "It's different. Everyone here is a state champion, city champion or they're a junior champion."
Esparza shot a team-high 179 for the Jaguars on Sunday during a 36-hole round.
Since coming to UHV in the fall, Esparza had progressed up the leader boards.
After a 53rd place finish at the Sam Houston State University Fall Invitational, she finished in a tie for 13th at the UT-Brownsville Fall Shootout.
"It boosts more confidence in me to get up there and to be with my teammates because I know they're always in the top 10," Esparza said.
The Jaguars shot a team score of 733 on Sunday.
Unlike most tournaments UHV has participated in, Sunday's opening round was a 36-hole affair.
"Once we got 18 done, the thought 'We've got 18 more to go,'" Esparza said. "It was rough. Once I had the last 18 to go, my legs were just killing me. I was very tired."
"It's closer to 12 to 13 miles and they're carrying 25 to 30 pounds of golf clubs," Williamson added. Physically, it takes a pretty big toll."
Although the skies cleared up and the temperatures dipped, the course was still feeling the results of Friday morning's downpour.
"Walking on the beach isn't the same as walking on hard floor," Williamson said.
In addition to doubling the number of holes, the Jaguars had to contend with a longer course.
Williamson said most NAIA have a total yardage between 5,800 and 5,900 yards.
On Sunday, the teams started on the white white markers, meaning the total yardage for an 18-hole round was 6,327.
"They stuck to strategy with the golf course being far longer than they're used to seeing it," Williamson said.
The field at the Claud Jacobs tournament consists of 17 schools, including NCAA Division I schools Iowa and Missouri.
Williamson sees this as a great opportunity for the Jaguars to compete against quality competition before competing in the A.I.I. Conference Tournament in April.
"We're going the right direction, and we're using this as a learning experience to really work hard over the next the month to do what we need to do and take care of business at our conference championship," Williamson said.
Before the conference tournament, the Jaguars compete at UT-Dallas Lady Comet Invitational and the Northwood Invitational in Grand Prairie next month.
Horn blows on opening round
Although Sunday's opening round was scheduled to be 36 holes, eight of the 17 teams didn't finish the round before the 6:20 p.m. sunset and will have to continue on Monday.
The Tournament is still set for a 8:30 a.m. shotgun start on Monday with 40 golfers in the field needing to complete the round.
Texas State on top
Although the first round is not complete, two-time event champion and host Texas State had the best opening-round scores of the teams that completed play on Sunday.
The Bobcats shot a team score of 603.
Texas State had three golfers finish in the Top 7 on Sunday.
Although they haven't completed the opening round, Lamar is slotted in second place. Lamar shot 319 though 18 and were 43-over par when play stopped on Sunday.
The five Lamar golfers have to complete between three and eight holes on Monday.
Iowa is in third place with a team score of 621, putting the Hawkeyes 18 shots off the lead.
Puisite returns to VCC
After winning her first career title at the Claud Jacobs Intercollegiate last season, Texas State junior Krista Puisite put herself in good position to repeat the feat on Sunday.
Puisite shot an opening round score of 147 to put her one stroke ahead of Louisiana Monroe's Ali Lucas.
The second-team Southland Conference team member shot a 77 on the front 18, but shaved seven strokes off that score in the last 18.
Sam Houston State's Shelby Hardy is in third place, but has to complete the first round on Monday. Shelby shot a 77 on the first 18 and was even through 15 holes of the back 18.
Kristi Caldwell is in fourth place and within striking range of Puisite with an opening round score of 150.
Since the groups will remain the same on Monday, Caldwell and Lucas will be in the same group.
Jaguars round out the field
Familiarity didn't help UHV too much on Sunday.
Playing on their home course, the Jaguars shot a team total of 733 and are in last place at the end of the first round of competition.
The Jaguars are 60 strokes behind 16th place Texas-Pan American.
Esparza had a round best 179, putting her in 78th place individually.
Lyndie Smith was two shots behind Esparza with a round score of 181.
Morgan Desive, Becky Benchot and Allison Coenig finished with scores of 184, 189 and 192, respectively.