Story by Kelly Diesel, Sports writer
After her first year on the Murray State women’s golf team, freshman Lucila Puente Rodriguez De Austria has been named OVC Freshman of the Year.
Head Coach Velvet Milkman said she wasn’t surprised when Rodriguez would receive the award, but Rodriguez said even she did not think she could do it.
“I didn’t even expect that, I didn’t even know it existed,” Rodriguez said. “The first semester Velvet [Milkman] told me she expected that, but I just wanted to play my best in all the tournaments. I’m pretty competitive, so in the second semester I really tried to do better in each match.”
In her freshman year with the Racers, Rodriguez placed fourth in the Drake Creek Invitational with scores of 76-72-71–219. Rodriguez also placed seventh in the Golden Eagle Jam with scores of 72-77-73-222.
Rodriguez said the OVC Tournament was the most intense match she played in during her freshman year.
“It was kind of like the other tournaments but a lot more official and more tension,” Rodriguez said. “No one was really talking to other teams, because everyone wanted to win and everything counts. I liked it a lot because I like pressure.”
Rodriguez placed eighth in the OVC Tournament with scores of 71-73-77-221.
Milkman, head coach of golf, said Rodriguez had a great start in her first year as a Racer.
“She has had a tremendous freshman year,” Milkman said. “I expected her to be good, but I wasn’t so sure she would come in and do what she’s done. I expect great things out of her because of how talented she is.”
Rodriguez comes from Sevilla, Spain, where she attended San Antonio Maria Claret High School. She began playing golf at the age of five after watching her dad play with his friends.
In Spain, there are no high school teams to play on, but Rodriguez found teams outside of school. Rodriguez said she mainly focused on school but did the best she could to make time for golf.
“I played all four years during high school but not for the school’s team,” Rodriguez said. “My junior and senior year it was really hard because we couldn’t miss or reschedule exams like we can here, but I still played on weekends.”
Before attending Murray State, Rodriguez won the championship of the Comunidad Valenciana event in 2015 with scores of 77-74-71-72–295. In 2014, Rodriguez won the Under-21 Title with scores of 71-72–143.
Rodriguez said her decision to enroll at Murray State came after persuasion from her friends.
“All of my friends who have been to America talk about how great it is here,” Rodriguez said. “I also really wanted to learn English and decided this was my best option to try and turn pro with golf.”
The flexibility of Murray State’s schooling and athletic programs is another reason Rodriguez said she chose to be a Racer.
“I also really like the organization of things here,” Rodriguez said. “I had no idea I would have time to go to practice, then the gym, then class and still be able to work on homework. The coaches and teachers are helping me a lot.”
Rodriguez said she just wants to try and get better each year here at Murray State.
“The first year was kind of about seeing how well I can play,” Rodriguez said. “Now, I just want to try and get better and try to win as much as possible with the team and hopefully some individual events as well.”
Rodriguez said she plans on making the decision to turn professional between her junior and senior year.