SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In an effort to keep things loose, Oklahoma State head coach Greg Robertson and his assistant, Maddi Swaney, write jokes on their players’ pin sheets before every round.
“Mostly dad jokes,” Robertson says. “Maddi and I are as goofy as anybody, so even though I’m also as competitive as anybody, it’s not life and death out here, and hopefully we don’t treat it like that.”
So, what’s Robertson’s best material?
How do penguins build houses?
Igloos them together.
The same can be said for how Robertson has continued to build this Cowgirls program. Two years ago, he walked into a great foundation with junior Lianna Bailey and incoming freshmen Maja Stark, Isabella Fierro and Hailey Jones, and this season he’s added his own glue with freshmen Rina Tatematsu from Thailand and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard from Australia.
“We’ve got the best team team anywhere,” Robertson said. “We have other five players who came here on their own to come watch. They’ve really all come together.”
Certainly, it all starts with Stark, the team’s star and Annika Award contender who owns two wins and three other top-3s this season. But further down the lineup, Tatematsu and Hinson-Tolchard are stepping up when it matters most.
The two freshmen each shot 2-under 70 Sunday at Grayhawk Golf Club as Oklahoma State climbed into fourth on the team leaderboard with a 6-under 282. At 4 over, the Cowgirls may not catch Stanford (18 under), but they are comfortably inside the top eight, 14 spots better than ninth-place Arizona.
“They are the difference right now for us,” Robertson said of his pair of newcomers, who are both inside the top 35 individually entering Monday’s final round of stroke play.
Hinson-Tolchard didn’t arrive in Stillwater until January because of the pandemic, which shuttered the U.S. Consolate in Perth. But she managed to only miss two events as the Cowgirls won five times this spring. She nearly didn’t play regionals, but after Haan-Hsuan Yu opened in 81 at Stanford Golf Course, the Aussie stepped in to shoot 74-71 and help Oklahoma State punch its NCAA Championship ticket.
“It was kind of a shock when coach told me that I was going to be playing, but I definitely thought my game was ready to be chucked into the deep end like that,” Hinson-Tolchard said. “If you would’ve told me four weeks ago that I would be playing here, I would’ve laughed.”
Tatematsu, meanwhile, arrived on campus in the fall and posted three top-10s, including a victory, in her first five starts. However, all three came while playing as an individual. Needless to say, she hasn’t been out of the lineup since.
Stark leads the team with 22 rounds of par or better, but Tatematsu is just three behind her.
“I just started to focus on my game and didn’t think about anything else,” Tatematsu said. “I’ve been playing at my own pace and enjoying the moment.”
Her team enjoys having her around, as well. Of the 11 players on the Oklahoma State roster, no one incites laughter like the happy-go-lucky Tatematsu – though it’s often at her expense.
“She’s kind of the punchline,” Robertson said, “but she takes it well.”
When Tatematsu finished her round Sunday, Hinson-Tolchard picked up her teammate’s golf bag and began to walk it over to the others.
“Oh my!” she shouted. “What’s in here, bricks?”
Tatematsu reckoned that her extraordinarily heavy bag was mostly the product of golf balls. Maybe 10. Maybe 20. It’s hard to tell because there’s a hole between the ball pocket and the inside of her bag.
“The balls keep going through the hole,” she said. “I add some every day.”
Hinson-Tolchard, who is rooming with her fellow freshman this week, has also discovered that Tatematsu wastes no time getting ready each morning. That’s because Tatematsu wears her golf uniform for the next round to bed.
“I just wake up and go,” Tatematsu said with a smile.
And then there is the deep bruise on Tatematsu’s left thigh. After the Cowgirls advanced through regionals, they stopped for a photo op near the Golden Gate Bridge. Tatematsu rushed toward a concrete ledge to get a better view. The only problem was that as she jumped, she was looking through the screen of her phone.
“I was like, ‘Oh, what a nice view,’” she said. “And then all of a sudden I tripped.”
Failing to clear the ledge, Tatematsu tumbled to the ground, whacking her thigh on the concrete and skinning her shins. She’s fine, and even has carried her heavy golf bag through 54 holes at Grayhawk, but she’s yet to live it down among her teammates.
The Cowgirls love a good laugh.