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BRITISH INVASION: Former British Am Champ Makes Smooth Transition

May 9, 2013

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

Having already conquered some of the top golf courses in the world, winning the 2011 British Ladies Amateur Open and the last two Dutch Junior Ladies titles, Baylor freshman Lauren Taylor from Rugby, England, didn't figure to have too much trouble when she came to the U.S.

"I mean, I'm used to playing against the international players that are the best," she said. "And I knew coming here it was going to be difficult going up against all the best players in America. But I'm kind of used to playing against really good players, and I know I'm a really good player myself. I just play golf and hope that I come out on top."

That's exactly what Taylor did at last month's Big 12 Championship, shooting 3-under-par 213 and topping the field by a whopping eight strokes to become just the second freshman in the league's 17-year history to earn medalist honors.

"I didn't even think about the victory when I was on the course," said Taylor, who had already posted four other top-five finishes, including second at the Alamo Invitational, "because we had two really hard finishing holes; and anything can happen in golf. I just wanted to make sure I remained focus the whole time. It was pretty good to know that I won by that much."

The Taylor that showed up at the Big 12 Championship "was kind of what we were expecting her to be," second-year head coach Jay Goble said.

But it has taken her most of the year to get over being that "far away from all the people she loves," Goble said.

"I think that she's started to realize recently that I'm here for a reason, I'm just going to bear down and try to play well. And it's kind of funny how her whole life - her personal life, her golf everything - is starting to get better. . . . She's getting comfortable with the courses, comfortable with Baylor, being in America, being away from her family. I know she's excited to get home at some point. But she's pretty driven to do well at regionals and wants to play in the National Championships, because she knows that if she's there, essentially you're competing against the best amateur players in the world."

Taylor gets that chance this week when the 19th-ranked and seventh-seeded Baylor women's golf team plays at the NCAA West Regional Thursday-Saturday in Stanford, Calif. The top eight teams and two lowest individuals not an advancing team move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held May 21-24 in Athens, Ga.

"The main goal is to win," said Taylor, who is ranked No. 42 nationally by Golfstat.com with a 73.47 scoring average, "because if you win, you're in. So I know our team isn't going to be thinking, 'We've got to get top eight,' There is no point in thinking about what we have to make. We're just going to go out and play the best we can, one shot at a time. I'm pretty confident that we can make it to nationals."

After finishing in the top 25 in each of her first six collegiate tournaments, Taylor hit a "rough patch" this spring when she averaged 75.8 strokes per round and finished 35th at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, 49th at the SunTrust Gator Invitational and 28th at the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate.

But that could have been when she was struggling the most with being "5,000 miles from home."

"Being away from family is quite hard, but it's the sacrifice you have to make," she said. "You go through phases where you really miss them and when you don't miss them at all, really. You just get on with playing golf."

Goble said sophomore Hayley Davis, who hails from Wimborne, England, went through the same homesickness blues last year and "has a little bitter taste in her mouth, because she was starting to get very homesick at the end of last year and had her worst tournament of the year at the National Championship."

"When they get back home, if they feel like they left anything on the table back here, at some point they're going to be disappointed," Goble said. "Whether it's this summer or a year from now or five years from now, they're going to be like, 'Wow, I didn't really give it my all!' or "I could have done this or that to make it better.' It's a great opportunity to measure yourself against the best players in the world. I think Hayley sees that now. For a freshman from Europe that didn't know much about college golf, (Taylor) is pretty hungry to get to the National Championship this year. And I feel like she's motivating everybody else, too."

The confident and more relaxed Taylor was back for the Big 12 Championships, when she led the team to a runner-up finish behind Oklahoma State.

"Motivation and confidence was a big thing," said Taylor, the wire-to-wire winner after shooting 2-over 74 in the opening round, a career-best 4-under 68 in the second round and closing with a 1-under 71. "I just had a bit of a rough patch the first few tournaments before the Big 12. I just relaxed a lot more. The conditions were not very good there, which that allowed me to relax a lot more as well. It was cold, the conditions were not fun at all. Most players there weren't exactly excited to play. And neither was I, but I was able to handle it."

Joining Taylor and Davis in the Baylor lineup are sophomore Emma Carberry from Hailsham, England and freshmen Lauren Lonardi from Verona, Italy, and Natalia Perez from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Baylor is seeded seventh in a field of 24 teams that includes top-ranked USC, No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 Vanderbilt, No. 12 Purdue, No. 14 Stanford, 18th-ranked Georgia and No. 24 Texas A&M.

"The Stanford golf course is really good at separating the good players from the not-so-good," Goble said. "Three days on a difficult golf course like that is going to show who really deserves to be there and who doesn't. As young as this team is, they're solid. This is a really good team. We deserve to be there. But at the end of the day, we've got to go earn it this week and just play our hearts out and see what happens."

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