Feb. 19, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Ainhoa Olarra has come a long way in her collegiate golf career, and we’re not just talking about the distance she traveled from her native Spain when she first arrived on campus in 2014. The senior recently took home medalist honors at the Florida State University Match Up for her first collegiate victory while also helping the Gamecocks take top honors in the tournament for the team’s first win of the academic year.
“It felt really good to win,” Olarra said. “It’s one of the goals I’ve had since I came here. Now that I’ve achieved that, I want to win another one! At one point on the first day, I was seven-under. I was just thinking, give me more holes! I don’t want to stop. I felt confident. Those first 18 holes, I was on fire. I was just trusting myself. It was really nice.
“It felt really good because we won as a team. We played very well on the first day. The coaches saw things that we needed to improve. I feel like we’re in a good spot right now.”
Olarra broke par in each round, carding 66, 69, and 71 to finish 10-under par. Although she was playing well, Olarra didn’t feel much pressure in the final round as she did not know exactly where she was in the individual standings.
“We have team leader boards on the courses, but not individual,” Olarra said. “But since coach (Kalen Anderson) was walking with me, I knew I was near the top. So, I knew I was doing OK, but she never said anything. We were just focusing on each shot. I was just asking about the team, and she would tell me that we’re doing fine and that we just need to make a few more birdies.”
I trusted in our coaches. I trusted in the process.
Olarra’s success did not come over night, and she battled through some struggles early in her collegiate career to elevate her game. She currently boasts the second-best career stroke average in school history.
“I’ve never been happier and prouder of a player,” said associate head coach Puggy Blackmon. “When she came in as a freshman, she did not play in our lineup. She has evolved not only into a very good player, but a good leader as well. She has worked for it every year.”
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot since I came here,” Olarra added. “I trusted in our coaches. I trusted in the process. Now I can say that when I first came here, I was scared because I didn’t really know them. It was hard in the beginning, and now I trust the process and I see where I’ve come from. I’m happy I trusted them as much as I did.”
Olarra earned honorable mention All-American honors last year, and she was named the 2017 Spanish Amateur Golfer of the Year in December.
“There are so many good players in Spain, so it feels great” Olarra said. “Last year was good, and I hope this year is just as good.”
So far, so good. Olarra has posted a top-5 finish in each of her last three events dating back to the fall season, and she feels the momentum building for herself as well as the team.
“It was good to be on top for the first tournament, because even though we had played well last semester, we hadn’t played a tournament in nearly two and a half months,” Olarra said. “I knew we had momentum, but I didn’t know if it would keep going.”
While she is pleased with her start for the spring season, Olarra said there’s a lot more to accomplish.
“I would like to win another tournament,” Olarra said. “It would be a good time to do it in our home tournament in Hilton Head (The Darius Rucker Intercollegiate). That’s a special tournament for us. In the postseason, it would be great to win (NCAA) Regionals again because we’ve won it three years in a row. It would be great to win SECs because our conference is truly a power conference. There are so many good teams.”
Olarra and the Gamecocks resume their spring slate March 2-4 when they host the 2018 Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
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