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Farah O’Keefe, young Texas women’s golf team hope to strike gold at NCAA championship

By admin May19,2024


Texas freshman Farah O'Keefe and the women's golf team will tee off at the NCAA women’s golf championship this weekend in Carlsbad, Cali. The eighth-ranked Texas squad features three freshmen and two sophomores.

Texas freshman Farah O’Keefe and the women’s golf team will tee off at the NCAA women’s golf championship this weekend in Carlsbad, Cali. The eighth-ranked Texas squad features three freshmen and two sophomores.

Like a lot of golf fans in Austin, Texas women’s golf coach Ryan Murphy knew about Farah O’Keefe before she joined his program.

That recognition comes with winning a state championship, like O’Keefe did as a junior at Austin’s Anderson High School in 2022. And it only increases when a young player not only qualifies for an LPGA Tour event as a high-school student but also makes the cut.

“She won the Texas state high school championship, so that’s obviously a feather in her cap,” Murphy said. “And when she got into the LPGA Tour (in 2021), that got our attention. And then when she made the cut, she had our full attention, because you can just stroll in there on the LPGA Tour and make a cut unless you know what you’re doing.”

But it wasn’t until last summer, when Murphy caddied for O’Keefe at the U.S. Girls Juniors Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo., that he really became familiar with her game.

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Now, he hopes that O’Keefe’s game — along with those of the four other young talents that fill the spots on the Texas team — can bring home an elusive national title at the NCAA women’s golf championship, which begins Friday at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.

“She’s had a great season, and she’s maturing on the golf course as we go,” Murphy said. “But underneath all of it is a ton of talent. She’s a gifted player, for sure. The sky’s the limit for her.”

Farah O'Keefe celebrates after winning individual gold as well as a Class 5A state title with Anderson High School in 2022. Now a freshman at Texas, O'Keefe leads the Longhorns into this weekend's NCAA women’s golf championship.Farah O'Keefe celebrates after winning individual gold as well as a Class 5A state title with Anderson High School in 2022. Now a freshman at Texas, O'Keefe leads the Longhorns into this weekend's NCAA women’s golf championship.

Farah O’Keefe celebrates after winning individual gold as well as a Class 5A state title with Anderson High School in 2022. Now a freshman at Texas, O’Keefe leads the Longhorns into this weekend’s NCAA women’s golf championship.

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Farah O’Keefe has ‘got this’ since middle school

Learning about each other went both ways, says O’Keefe, who just finished her third full semester at Texas. She enrolled in the spring of 2023 after graduating in December from Anderson, where she led the Trojans to their only girls golf state championship.

“I had only ever really had my dad (Michael O’Keefe) on the bag before, and so I hadn’t had any previous experience with another caddie,” she said, referring to playing the U.S. Girls Juniors Championship with Murphy. “And (Murphy) was super helpful. I mean, he’s really, really good with numbers and picking out landing areas and all that kind of stuff.

“That kind of exposure to the way that he approaches golf, I think prepared me for this year a lot. Being able to see that firsthand with him, literally in the heat of battle, was super beneficial to starting my freshman year off on the right foot.”

Of course, some of the lessons she learned from her father won’t ever fade away. On O’Keefe’s first LPGA Tour event when she was 16, the pair had a typical golfer-caddie disagreement about a particular club that still resonates with O’Keefe — especially since it helped instill what Murphy calls “an inner confidence.”

“We’ve made that mistake before where I listened to him, and I ended up getting the right club with the wrong swing, and it doesn’t go well at all,” O’Keefe said. “And so, I told my dad, ‘Hey, I got this.’ And I executed the shot.

“My dad still talks about it. To this day, he says that whenever I’m behind a shot that maybe I’m not so comfortable with, you can literally say out loud, ‘I got this.’ So that’s something that I say to myself a lot in competition when I feel the anxiety or the stress and the nerves and all that kind of stuff. I just have to remind myself, ‘Hey, you know how to play golf. You got this.’”

O’Keefe, who currently stands 34th in the world by the World Amateur Golf Ranking, has certainly been on the front foot all season for Texas, which earned its 10th consecutive trip and 32nd overall appearance at the NCAA women’s golf championship. After not competing in her first semester, she’s been in the lineup for all but one of the 10 team tournaments this school year. She has four of the six best rounds by any Texas golfer, including a third-round score of 68 at the NCAA Bermuda Run Regional last week, when the Longhorns finished second to qualify for the championship.

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Young Texas lineup ready for match play

Can O’Keefe and a lineup that includes fellow freshmen Selina Liao and Lauren Kim as well as sophomores Angela Heo and Cindy Hsu win a first national championship for the Texas women?

Murphy knows the unforgiving nature of the match-play format of the championship, and he knows his eighth-ranked team will travel to California as the underdog in a field headlined by No. 1 Stanford and defending national champion Wake Forest.

“I like where we’re at,” he said. “I like how we’re playing right now and hopefully we’re peaking at the right moment. You might need a little luck on your side, to be honest. It’s very difficult to come through the gantlet of match play and you’re going to ultimately have to knock off (some) great teams to do that.”

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Farah O’Keefe, Texas women hope to strike gold at NCAA golf championship

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