The Campbell women’s golf team does a lot of things well.
The Camels rank in the top 10 nationally in par-3 scoring. They’re No. 3 in eagles. Birdies? They have more than any school in the country.
But what they do best lately is win.
In March, Campbell’s team total of 870 strokes at the James Madison University Eagle Landing Invitational was the third lowest in school history. A week earlier, the Camels placed three individuals in the top 15 to earn a victory at the 32-team Kiawah Island Classic – one of five tournament wins so far in 2013.
Of course the key to all that success is simple: great golfers.
“I’m fortunate at Campbell that the five young ladies who represent the team would be playing No. 1 on most of the other teams,” said coach John Crooks, who has 69 tournament wins at the school. ”If you look at our record at JMU, we had the low round every day and won by 21.”
Success is nothing new for the women’s team. Crooks has led the team for 22 seasons, putting together the fourth-most victories in NCAA women’s golf history. His teams have earned regional berths 12 of the past 15 years. While Campbell may not be the first school that comes to mind when you think of major college athletic programs, women golfers do.
“We have a winning tradition at Campbell,” Crooks says. “We also have a great golf course and a great facility. When people come to visit, an even greater asset is the young ladies on the team.”
These days, Crooks relies on senior captain Teresa Urquizu to make the right impression.
“When they come and meet Teresa,” he says, “they find out she’s a really nice person, so they enjoy being around each other.”
In fact, the interaction between players and recruits is what brought Urquizu to Buies Creek. As a 16-year-old high school player in Spain, she met Campbell golfer Maite Ortiz at a tournament. Ortiz encouraged Urquizu to follow in her footsteps. Now Urquizu is the one reaching out to recruits.
“I want the best for this team,” says Urquizu, who led all Division I players with four eagles in the fall season. “Even when I’m not here, I want good people to come after me.”
That doesn’t seem to be a problem. Lisbeth Brooks recently won Big South Conference women’s golfer of the week honors for her top-10 individual finishes in Campbell’s two recent tournament wins. She is the fifth Campbell players to earn the award this year, along with Urquizu, Brooke Bellomy, Kaylin Yost and Maria Jose Benavides.
“We have excellent senior leadership and some disciplined athletes. They aren’t so concerned with winning, but they are concerned with improving each day,” Crooks says.
Finding the right talent to keep Campbell on top is one of Crooks’ primary responsibilities.
“I don’t think it’s easy, and every year it gets harder,” he says. “There’s more programs and information available on the internet. There’s social media. All of those things kind of level the playing field.”
Now more than ever, Crooks must cast a wide net.
“If you’re going to compete nationally, you have to recruit internationally,” he says. “The programs at major universities are sprinkled with international players. Having had some success, I’ve met people in a lot of places. That has helped us stay competitive.”
That’s why the Campbell roster includes players from Mexico, Austria, the Virgin Islands and Australia. Somehow, all those backgrounds mesh well when they share the bond of golf.
“This team is very close to each other,” Urquizu says. “We have dinners and go to the library together. I live with two of my teammates as well. We can really talk about anything.”
Talking golf is a good place to start. After all, the 36th-ranked team in the country has some pretty lofty goals.
“I think we can go to nationals,” Urquizu says. “I don’t have any doubt of that because of the level of the team. We have to stay patient and give it our best – but I think they can.”
It will be the last chance for the senior captain, who hopes to pursue an MBA upon graduation.
“We are all very motivated and we know what we want,” she says. “As a senior, I’m very lucky for the freshmen who have come in because they’re ready. They don’t need a few years to get used to anything. They’re ready to be on top. That really makes a difference.”
And while Crooks does all the necessary work to keep the program moving forward, he has the satisfaction of knowing that the women make his job a little easier.
“They’re dedicated,” he says simply. “They realize they are part of something special and they appreciate it. They want to ride it as far as they can.”