In only its third season of existence, the Texas Wesleyan women’s golf team has experienced a number of firsts.
The first recruit.
The first individual win.
The first team win.
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The first national tournament appearance.
The Rams finished tied for ninth at the NAIA National Championship at Savannah Quarters Country Club in Pooler, Ga. They had their worst round Friday with a 324, which gave them a 1,264 for the four-day tournament.
Northwood University won with a 1,211 — 22 shots ahead of three schools that tied for second.
“There are so many good schools in the country, so finishing in the top 10 anytime is great, but especially being only our third year,” coach Kevin Millikan said. “That’s really exciting for our program. It sets the bar for us.”
The Rams, who entered the national tournament ranked eighth, have exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Millikan began with nothing three years ago, initially selling the school, its Fort Worth location and his vision.
He found his initial recruit, Haslet resident Jessica Liptak, through The First Tee of Fort Worth. Liptak, who was home-schooled, became a fan of Millikan and the school the day she visited.
“It offered a very rare opportunity to be part of a new team and set the foundation for the team,” said Liptak, who graduates in December. “That was a cool and unique opportunity for sure.”
Six of the 11 players on the roster are local, but the quick success of the program has made recruiting easier for Millikan. The Rams have two players from out of state.
It’s all part of Millikan’s master plan.
“If you had asked me three years ago, I would have said, ‘Yeah, it’s a three-year plan. I think in three years we could be pretty good,’” said Millikan, the Sooner Athletic Conference coach of the year. “Did I really believe it? Of course I believed it. It was our expectation to be competitive. The men’s team has won six national championships. There’s no reason, given our school, our location, all the resources we have, that we can’t compete like that.”
The Rams are built for bigger and better things, with three of their top five players only freshmen. Alex Schies, an Arlington Oakridge product, earned Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the year honors.
Schies had a scoring average of 76.8 heading into the national championship. She finished tied for 26th with a 22-over par 310 at nationals.
“He told us he expected the three freshmen coming in to really help the team,” said Schies, who had a low round of 68 this year. “The three of us were just kind of like, ‘Yeah, OK.’ But we came in and played our best, and we seemed to help the team.”
Now, the Rams hope for even more next season and beyond.
“My goal is to be competitive for a national championship every year,” Millikan said. “So many things have to go right to actually win, but I’d hope we can have a team that year after year is in the mix and in contention. Winning one would be great, but we want to have a program that’s always in the conversation.”
The course isn’t the only place the Rams excel. They have a team grade-point average of 3.4. Three players — Deborah Dover, McKenzie Brown and Stephanie Myers — were named NAIA Daktronics Scholar-Athletes.
“They are killing it on the course and in the classroom,” Millikan said. “They work hard. Maybe I was the only guy who thought we could do this.”
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760