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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Golf

Softball sets example for women’s golf to follow


Head coach Gerrod Chadwell is directing the Cougars during its first ever season.  |  Courtesy of UH Athletics

Head coach Gerrod Chadwell is directing the Cougars during its first ever season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Before the conference championships and super regional appearances, there was no softball program, no mitts or bats, no field and no players for 72 years.

Then came Kyla Holas.

Holas joined the UH coaching staff 14 years ago to build the University’s first softball team and ended up creating one of the most successful programs in school history.

“It took a long time,” Holas said. “Our biggest thing back then was that what we are now is not where we will be. We were just trying to be the best we could be, and hard work is what kept us on the ground and what kept us moving forward every single day.”

Now, as UH attempts to incorporate a women’s golf program, head coach Gerrod Chadwell is sure to look to softball’s 11 consecutive winning seasons to see how he can translate that success from the diamond to the putting green.

Lofty goals

Chadwell comes to UH after spending three seasons with Oklahoma, where the team had two consecutive NCAA championships berths and three successive appearances in the NCAA regionals.

His expectations are just as high for this new program.

“I expect to be competitive in the postseason,” Chadwell said. “The way our system is set up is that based on our body of work for the season, the team will receive an invitation to the regional tournament, and I expect to be at regionals next year.”

During its first season, which began Monday at Texas A&M University for the “Mo”Morial Invitational, the women’s golf team will compete solely on an individual basis and will therefore not have a team score.

Year one challenges

That is just one of the inconveniences of being a new program, inconveniences that Holas clearly remembers facing during softball’s inaugural and only losing season.

“For the whole first year, we practiced off-site at Baseball U.S.A. I mean, it’s one of those things not to have excuses for a losing season, but we had to get in vans everyday and drive almost an hour out to Beltway 8,” Holas said.

“The team always ate lunch in the car before we practiced, and then we would have to fight 5 p.m. traffic driving back to campus. We would just sit for hours on the freeway, and the girls would do their study hall in the vans. It was definitely an interesting environment that first year.”

Three conference championships, five NCAA Regional appearances and two Super Regional appearances later, the softball program has come out on top establishing itself as one of the top programs in UH’s former conference.

High expectations

Freshman golfer Emily Gilbreth hopes the same success will soon be seen by the women’s golf program.

“I’m really excited about this year. In being the first ever, whatever we do will be a record,” Gilbreth said. “And I’m really confident that we will have a shot at a national title.”

In looking back at her nearly decade-and-a-half career as softball head coach, Holas thought of all the hurdles she leaped over in the beginning, going through many staffing changes, including three athletic directors.

She thought of that moment hosting University of Lafayette, her alma mater, in the Super Regionals, where she was engulfed by a sea of red, and she had just one piece of advice for Chadwell and his golfers.

“Don’t be so rigid on the time it takes to get to a certain place. Just let that flow. Work hard, and it’ll end up happening in its own time,” Holas said. “It’s one of those things that you can’t rush. There is a big plan and a big picture, and when it all gets right and the right people are there, it will be successful. It will be exactly what you wanted it to be.”

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