Oklahoma alumni has strong pro debut at Texas Women’s Open

07/09/2014 12:10 PM

11/12/2014 6:43 PM

Emily Collins describes her golf game as vastly different from just six years ago.

While then mostly viewed as a player with an average game, Collins went on to three junior golf titles and a prominent role on Oklahoma’s women’s golf team.

On Tuesday, the Colleyville resident made her professional debut, carding a 2-under 69 in the Texas Women’s Open at Rolling Hills Country Club.

It was Collins’ first official professional event, and while she is tied with two other players for second place, all of them chase Tulsa’s Amber Hensley by two shots entering Wednesday’s final round.

Highland Village amateur Hayley Dambold and Georgia’s Ashlan Ramsey also shot 69. Defending champion Christi Cano shot a 2-over 73 and is tied for 20th.

For Collins, though, it’s an opportunity just to get on the golf course.

“I’ve played in this one before, so it’s a good way to start off,” Collins said. “It’s very frustrating that there’s very few events to play in when it comes to minitour golf for women. They have some Monday qualifiers on the LPGA Tour, but they have none on the developmental Symetra Tour.”

The waiting game is one Collins said she can handle, but it isn’t a lot of fun.

Coming off an appearance in the NCAA Championships in May, Collins was entered in U.S. Open qualifying just two days later.

The Nolan Catholic alum withdrew reluctantly despite the Open being one of the very few professional events that Collins could conceivably play this summer.

After opening with a 5-over 76 in 2011 sectional qualifying, Collins rallied with a 66 in the second round to punch her ticket to the Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

With that bit of experience and a college career in which she had nine top-10 finishes, Collins is focused on a pro golf future.

“I don’t think there’s any player out there that I can say plays at a level that I can’t get to,” Collins said. “Now, I haven’t been out there long enough to know that for sure, but I feel like I’ve done the things I needed to improve, both hitting the ball and gaining distance and then doing the things I need to do to get better on the greens.”

Collins has steadily improved every year at OU. In 11 events as a freshman, she had a stroke average of 76.52.

By the time she graduated in May, Collins had dropped that average to 74.38 and was ranked 124th in the Golfweek amateur rankings.

Her best individual result for the Sooners was a runner-up finish at the NCAA Central Regional in 2013.

Still, like most professionals, Collins said it’s finding a strategy and working to improve that will yield the results.

“I’m working on a few things in my swing, but putting is where I’ve struggled a bit lately,” she said. “You know there was a time where I could just line it up and hit it, and I made a lot of putts blindly like that. But playing at a professional level means doing some things different and learning how to make more 10- to 15-foot birdie chances.”

Collins had four birdies against two bogeys in the first round, good enough for a spot in the final pairing of her first pro event.

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