By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
There was a heightened confidence and swagger to the No. 12 Baylor women’s golf team Wednesday, as just about every athlete said without hesitation the Bears are the best team in the Big 12.
The team will head up the interstate to Dallas for the Big 12 Championship match, which starts Friday and runs through Sunday at the Dallas Athletic Club golf course. Junior Rosie Belsham, a golfer with postseason experience under her belt, said “all of us are so ready” for the upcoming three-day event.
“There’s only a couple of us that have done postseason at a high level so far, but I think we’ve really got the message across to the others that it’s big,” Belsham said. “We have such a strong team that winning this year would just be unreal. I think we are 100% the best team in the Big 12.”
The Bears got a taste of what their conference competition is going to be like from Big 12 Match Play, a three-day tournament that took place from April 7-9 in Phoenix. Baylor finished in fourth place in the non-stroke play event.
Freshman Silje Ohma, one of the top scorers for the Bears in the match play event, said the aggressiveness of that style of play is going to help her as she transitions back to stroke play.
“I feel like I personally learned a lot about making birdies because [in] match play, usually you have to make birdies to win the hole,” Ohma said. “By having that mindset, you kind of go into it like, ‘OK, I’m going to make [a] birdie.’ You’re not afraid of doing anything, and that’s why I think I also played pretty good because I’m not afraid of doing anything bad.”
Head coach Jay Goble said he’s taking six golfers to the event, with sophomore BaiMai Seema traveling as an alternate in the event of a lineup swap or injury. Sophomore Sera Hasegawa will play out of the No. 1 spot while Belsham (No. 2), Ohma (No. 3), junior Britta Snyder (No. 4) and senior Hannah Karg (No. 5) tee off in the other four spots.
The head coach in his 12th year at Baylor said this squad is “probably the deepest team I’ve ever had here at Baylor.” Goble added he expects big things from this group in the postseason. The Bears have been ranked in the top 25 for the entire spring and most of the fall.
“I mean, to have that many players with that good of scoring averages and that much tournament experience, I feel good if anything were to happen [this weekend],” Goble said. “We could put BaiMai in and she could shoot just as good of a score as anybody on our team.”
Baylor hasn’t won a Big 12 championship since 2015, when it secured its only conference title in program history. Since 2012, the Bears have finished in the top three eight times. Since the team has “been knocking on the door for a long time now,” Goble said the squad has a strong chance to get over the hump if it plays how it has played for most of the spring.
Ohma and Hasegawa, two of Baylor’s biggest contributors this fall, will take part in their first Big 12 Championship this weekend. Hasegawa, a transfer from East Tennessee State University, battled back from a minor injury and returned on Feb. 12.
Hasegawa said her body feels great for her first Big 12 Championship tournament.
“Actually, I wanted to play in the tournaments [when I was hurt], but Coach [Goble] was like, ‘No, you should have a rest,’” Hasegawa said. “I feel like that was a smart decision because right now, I don’t have any pain on my body, which makes me really happy. I can swing without thinking about my body, so that’s nice for me.”
With the Big 12 Match Play in the rearview mirror, Goble said the conference “right now is as deep as it has ever been in women’s golf,” and that his squad will have to really hone in and focus.
“We played a really good Kansas team [and] Iowa State this year has set the record for stroke play in NCAA women’s golf,” Goble said. “Texas is once again a top-10 team in the country and there’s some others, too. I mean, Oklahoma State also has a very solid team. We’re not going to take any of that for granted, but we are going to focus on and concentrate on our game because we can’t focus on anything that anyone else does.”
Goble also said there’s some familiarity with the golf course that they’ll be playing at. Baylor often practices at Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, and Goble said the Dallas Athletic Club has a similar feel to Ridgewood.
“It feels like home cooking to us,” Goble said.
Goble also said Travis Moore, the former green superintendent of Ridgewood Country Club, is now in that same role at Dallas Athletic Club. With all that familiarity and Dallas being less than two hours away from Waco, Goble said this team has a real shot to bring some hardware home.
The Weather Channel’s weekend forecast projects 50 to 70-degree temperatures in Dallas this weekend, with a 40% chance of rain during the day on Sunday. Baylor’s tee time has not been announced yet, but stay up to date with this link for live stats and times when they’re released.