Monday Press Conference: Oehrlein and Johnson

Women's golf coach Todd Oehrlein and his team's only senior, Malinda Johnson, discussed the season so far, Johnson's strong play and goals for the future

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Opening statement, Todd Oehrlein:

"Our spring up to this point has been moving and our direction has been pretty good. I've been pleased with the progress we've been making as a group. It's very similar to kind of what (UW softball head coach) Karen (Gallagher) was saying, youth might be the theme here today. We are, with the exception of (UW senior golfer) Malinda (Johnson), a very young golf team and as a result we've been a little up down and a little inconsistent at times, but we worked very hard especially in the fall, but we worked very hard during off season … from a conditioning stand point and then indoors once we got a chance to get started when we came back from break to try to improve upon the consistency and we were definitely making progress on that and doing a pretty good job, and had played pretty well. (We are) kind of peaking at the Baylor Invitational so far at this point, 19 teams at that invitational, finished fifth. Malinda won the tournament individually and we're really moving in the right direction. We kind of stumbled this weekend. We were disappointed we had an invitational at Indiana and didn't play up to our potential as a group and we were disappointed from that stand point.


Todd Oehrlein

"We actually head for Purdue in two weeks, so we actually have two weeks before our next invitational to kind of get back outdoors and firm up the golf swings a little bit and work on the short game a little bit and kind of get back to that consistent level and keep moving in the right direction.

"Malinda, to comment a little bit on her season, as (UW sports information assistant) Brian (Lucas) mentioned obviously she's had a tremendous season. I think currently she's ranked 12th or 13th in the nation individually, has either finished in a tie for first or won first outright three times this year, twice in the spring, has been three-time Big Ten player of the week already this Spring. Was not able to play this weekend, and we missed that leadership sorely, obviously by the way we finished. Her strongest thing that she has really done more so than anything else has just been her steady consistent approach to everything she's done throughout the season. She's really responded to everything that we've asked her to do as a staff and has worked extremely hard during the off season, has worked extremely hard on her short game, different things to really try to elevate her game. She came in as an All-Big Ten performer and we asked her to elevate her game and take it to the next level and she's done a tremendous job so far doing that. The rest of the team, extremely young as I mentioned, this weekend six girls played and we replaced Malinda with a junior and the other five were three freshman and two sophomores. So extremely young group and I'm encouraged by their passion, their commitment they've made to the program, as hard as they've worked during the offseason and defiantly have made strides and tremendous progress right now. So we're looking forward to getting going with Purdue and follow that up with the Big Ten and obviously hoping for a NCAA regional selection."

Todd, you talked about Malinda's season, that she came in with some credentials obviously already from years past but are you surprised at all at how quickly she's been able to take it to the next level and maybe does she have the game to compete with the other best players in the nation?

"Yes, she definitely has the game to compete with the other players; she already is doing that. Our schedule this year is competitive as it's ever been around here and they've definitely bumped up the schedule and she's gone out and has only finished out of the top five one event this entire season. Had one tournament in North Carolina where she didn't finish in the top five and every other event has been a top five finish. I'm really not surprised by the way she's elevated her game. I mean obviously this being my first opportunity to work with her I knew coming in how talented she was as a player and it didn't take many meetings or many conversations to just kind of challenge her a little bit and just ask her to give us maybe even just a little bit more and just be real steady and consistent with her approach and she's done that. That's provided tremendous leadership. As I mentioned the rest of the team is extremely young and they watch everything that she does, they see her approach and they're learning from that and in the long run that's going to really pay off. The impact that she's had and is having on the program will not only be felt today and this year in her scores but also will be felt beyond with the work habits and the consistency that she'll instill."

Malinda, what's your process from training during the winter months. Obviously you don't have quite the same advantage as some of the other players do in the southern part of the United States?

"I do a lot of hitting balls indoors. I do as much of that as possible. I also take trips south and play for weeks at a time just to really keep my game at that point where when we come out in the spring, I come out firing."

Malinda, what do you think has been the key to this excelling that you've put into your game this season and the key to your success so far?

"This year I've really buckled down and really pushed my practice habits to the limit, just working as hard as I possible can because I'd like to really just succeed for this University and to keep putting my name up there and hopefully in turn helping my teammates out in the long run."

Malinda, it's kind of a joke when people step up to the tee on a golf course and somebody comes up and they're left handed and everybody jokes you're standing the wrong way, you're backwards. Among the elite players you don't see it a whole lot, do you still get looks, jokes from people when you're playing in tournaments where obviously you've got the credentials in the game but they see you step up and be one of those rare left-handers?

"Yes, about once a tournament somebody makes a comment that I'm left handed, I'm on the wrong side of the ball. No matter if it's the rules official or a spectator. Its always fun to laugh and joke about stuff like that, but if that's what sets me apart and maybe make people notice me a little more than that's great."

Oehrlein:

"I probably give her a harder time than anybody."

Malinda, when Coach Oehrlein challenged you to step up your game, what was your thinking when you heard that from your first-year coach?

"It was actually very welcomed. I wanted to step up and really just succeed as a senior. To have an extra push and to have a new coach giving you a different perspective on things it's just been a great help to my game in one year."

Malinda, coach mentioned that he feels already thinks your competing with the best golfers in the nation and that you can do so from here on out. What's your goal for yourself for this season?

"My biggest goal is to make it to NCAA nationals and just hopefully compete with the top players in the country that sometimes I don't get to meet in other tournaments we play in. I'd love to do well and perhaps win that, so I'm working really hard to get to that point."

What are your goals after the season, if you don't mind me asking? And secondly how successful could she be Todd as a pro?

Oehrlein:

"She's going to play professionally and I'll let Malinda comment on that, but she's been fortunate enough to already qualify for the LPGA Futures Tour. They have the option in the fall qualifier to go and play and obviously she hasn't played in any events currently and won't do so until she finishes her senior season. So that's where she'll head and she definitely has that potential and that opportunity. If you've never seen her play, she hits the ball extremely far, she's very strong as a player and that's something that not a lot of players have that ability and that potential and as she gets even more consistent with her golf swing and the misses get a little tighter and the short game continues to improve and takes advantage of all the scoring opportunities that she provides herself out on the golf course there's a bright future."

Johnson:

"As he said, I qualified for the Futures Tour and that was a huge confidence boost in the fall to know that I can compete on that level is something I'm really looking forward to and I'm really going to work hard to make that my goal, my career."


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