Milkman’s Racers claim 10th OVC title
Velvet Milkman has had a lot of success in her 24 years as head coach of the Murray State women’s golf team. But the 2016-17 season was one for the ages. The Racers won five regular season tournaments and in three of those events they also won the individual title.
“We had a very good year leading up to the OVC tournament,” Milkman said. “We won the last three events of the regular season. Now, sometimes that kind of success makes players nervous. But it just gave us more confidence.
“We didn’t talk about it, though. We took it one tournament at a time, one day at a time. But that’s the way you have to play golf, take it one shot at a time and stay in the moment.”
Then they won the Ohio Valley Conference Championship by 10 shots over Eastern Kentucky, shattering the record for team score by 22 shots. And yes, you read that correctly. They beat the previous record by 22 shots. It’s surreal.
“I knew we had it in us,” Milkman said. “We hadn’t really played to our potential. We had played well. But we hadn’t had everyone play well on the same day until the first day of the OVC tournament. And we didn’t really finish that round the way we should have. We can play better, still.”
We won the last three events of the regular season. Now, sometimes that kind of success makes players nervous. But it just gave us more confidence.
It was the Racers’ 10th team title and Milkman was named Coach of the Year for the 11th time.
Moa Folke won the individual title by three shots with an OVC record five-under-par 208. It was her second straight individual championship and she was named OVC Player of the Year for the second straight year.
“I didn’t talk to her about repeating as the individual champion going into the OVC tournament because that’s very hard to do,” Milkman said. “She had played well throughout the spring. But she could have played better, and she knew that. But what she did, winning it two years in a row, is very difficult.”
The last back-to-back winner was also a Racer, Jenny Daag. Daag won the title in 1998 and 1999.
“The neat thing about that is, I found out about Moa through Jenny,” Milkman said. “And she chose to come to Murray State because of her relationship with Jenny. So for them to be the only two back-to-back winners is really special. Now she can go for three in a row next year.
“It goes to show the players that come through here love Murray State, have great memories of their time here, and want to do whatever they can to help the program.”
Linette Holmslykke finished fourth at OVC tournament and was an All-OVC selection.
“Linette played extremely well,” Milkman said. “She’s very steady and was under par for two rounds. She chips and putts very well.”
Lucilla Puente Rodriguez finished eighth and was named Freshman of the Year.
“She came in and was phenomenal for us,” Milkman said. “I’m really expecting good things from her next year. To do what she did as a freshman was just incredible. It really is, and I expect her to have an incredible career here.”
Anna Moore finished 12th and Raeysha Surendran finished 14th, giving the Racers five of the top 14.
“Anna has really come on strong,” Milkman said. “She’s a very good ball striker and she’s starting to get more confidence. And then another freshman, Raeysha, stepped into the lineup played well for us.
“Our program is very structured. If you do what we ask you to do you’re going to get better. If you put in extra work, you give yourself a chance to be great. And everyone on this team, all these young ladies, are willing to do what we ask, plus a little more.”
This time last year, Milkman was not pleased as the Racers finished tied for sixth at the OVC tournament for the second year in a row.
“That was not acceptable for this program, period” she said. “I’m much happier this year. I want us to be the best that we can be. But it comes down to recruiting and getting young ladies who are self-driven. And I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do that.”
Will Snodgrass, in his third season as an assistant to Milkman, has proven to be a huge asset.
“He is unbelievable,” Milkman said. “He’s a very knowledgeable golfer and he played at Murray State so he beams with Blue and Gold pride. He used to work as a greens superintendent so he can walk out on a golf course and point things out that we might not see otherwise. He reads putts better than anybody I have ever met. Once our players start to trust him they can make putts from everywhere.”
The Racers played in the NCAA Regional May 8-10 and finished 15th. Puente Rodriguez finished 32nd and just missed qualifying for nationals as an individual.
“I was disappointed,” Milkman said. “We’re getting better. But this team had the talent to make a run. I think I underestimated how much pressure there would be. They had scoreboards up everywhere. There were walking scorers with every group. And we hadn’t experienced that before.”
Of course, they may get a chance to make that run next year since everyone in the lineup will be back.
“We had a fantastic year,” Milkman said. “We won six tournaments. I don’t know if we can win six tournaments next year. And just because we have everyone back, you can’t assume we’ll get better. I expect us to be better, but it’s going to take a lot of work. After our last round I told them preparation for next year starts now. For us to reach our potential next year they will have to work their tails off this summer.”