After an incredible spring break run, Nelson’s Lauren Taylor has a pair of NCAA Division I women’s golf championship trophies on her mantle. Though a reminder of tremendous play, it appears the feat has not really sunk in for the rising star.
“I don’t want to say I’m surprised because that would feel like I didn’t have much confidence in myself,” says the soft-spoken Portland State University freshman. “But I would say I didn’t expect it. That said, I have been waiting a long time for this and I knew the time had to come soon. Two tournaments in a row makes me feel I can keep going and be successful.”
In mid-March, Taylor captured the Folino Invitational in Fullerton, California. In doing so, the Granite Pointe Golf Course-raised player become the first freshman in Portland State history to capture a golf tournament title. Taylor shot an even-par 70-74-144 to win the tournament played at Oak Creek Golf Club.
Holding the lead after the first round of the Folino tournament, Taylor admits she was nervous throughout the second round. Despite being four shots off her opening even-round score, Taylor hung on for the title, but had to wait until all the players were off the course for her teammates to deliver the news.
“When they told me I was, ‘oh that’s so cool.’ But then right after that I thought ‘oh gosh I have to give a speech, don’t I?’” Taylor laughs.
With the biggest win of her career, the 19-year-old did indeed have to deliver a few words at the trophy presentation.
“I was mumbling, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “You have to thank everybody, like the maintenance crew and that sort of thing. I’ve never been in that position so I didn’t know what to say.”
Taylor has been playing golf since her father Dave Taylor first brought her out to Granite Pointe when she was four. She teed off in her first local junior club event when she was 11 and since that time has become one of the rising stars on the junior golf scene in the province.
Before committing to Portland State over the summer, Taylor attended the Brent Morrison Golf Academy on Vancouver Island for her last two years of high school. Last season Taylor finished tenth in the B.C. Girls Championship and took sixth in the B.C. Women’s Amateur which earned her a spot on the Canadian women’s national team.
In the last week of March, Taylor followed up her first NCAA victory by entering the Anteater Invitational in Santa Margarita in the same groove. Hosted by the University of California Irvine, the three-round event was played at Dove Canyon Country Club.
In the opening round Sunday, Taylor was two-over after seven holes but back-to-back birdies on the front-nine’s finishing holes — a par four, followed by a par-five — put her back to even. Two more birdies on the back had Taylor two-under when she teed off the gorgeous water-lined par-four 18th. Taylor double bogeyed the hole to finish the day even par 71.
A steady second round produced one birdie and two double bogeys, leaving Taylor at one over par for the tournament.
Taylor credits much of her recent success on her short game.
“Before I was apprehensive with my short game, especially with my chipping. But I have been practicing a lot and I feel that groove right now around the greens,” she says.
“That’s the thing about golf courses, there is always going to be a fairway, there is always going to be the sand traps, there is most likely going to be water, but the greens are always different. The speed is such a major factor. We are used to playing on these slow, sandy greens and when we go away it’s super fast and firm.”
With the tournament lead, Taylor started strong on Tuesday with a birdie on the second hole. A double bogey on the par-three seventh hole — which she played plus-four for the week — left her one-over after the opening nine.
With a comfortable five-stroke advantage heading out onto the back, Taylor had some wiggle room and used it. She opened the back with two bogeys, but then birdied 13 and 14 — two holes she finished minus-four on the week — to get back to one-over on the day. Though she slipped slightly with three straight bogeys on the final three holes, her 75 was enough to stay clear of Joyce Chong of Nevada and Kayla Mortellaro of the University of Idaho who both finished two strokes back.
“In both tournaments I was just focusing on my score, I just wanted to get down to low numbers,” Taylor says. “I have been so close for the last couple years at shooting really good scores in tournaments, but the whole game never came together.
“It all came down to what came around the greens. Once I started making up for the trouble I got into and started making up and downs when I missed the green… as soon as that started happening, you see a huge improvement in score. So that is what I have been focusing on… is making up for the mistakes I make.”
As for the speech at the trophy presentation the second time around?
“It was terrible again,” she laughs.
For her red hot streak, Taylor has been named Big Sky Conference athlete of the week two weeks in a row.
On Monday Taylor and her Portland State Vikings team teed off at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona. It’s the last tournament before the Big Sky Conference Championship April 18 to 20 that will determine whether the team moves onto the NCAA Western Regionals.
Fuelling the Vikings’ run will most likely be Taylor who hopes to keep her streak going for a few more weeks.
“I feel relaxed right now, which is really helping,” she says. “I just have to continue to stay confident in myself and my game. I need to know that I can be just as good as anybody else out here.”