For the first time in her career in Nebraska, senior golfer Kirsten Baete became a tournament winner.
Baete finished in the top 10-under of her career at the White Sands Intercollegiate on Paradise Island in the Bahamas and won the singles title that had previously escaped her career.
“It means the world, it’s so amazing to finally hit this milestone,” said Baete. “This fall was closer than ever. Certain elements of my game felt so good in every tournament that I just struggled to put it all together.”
Baete always calls her ball hitting solid, but her putting and short game had to be improved to get over the mountain top. At the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate in New Orleans last March, Baete played solid, consistent golf, but a lack of eight- to ten-foot birdie putts put her off the top when she finished fourth with a tie.
By the time Baete reached college, she never fully realized the importance of putting as she preferred to hone her skills on the driving range rather than the putting green. However, after the arrival of women’s golf head coach Lisa Johnson in Nebraska, it became clear the importance of putting.
Johnson pointed out that putting a golfer makes the most strokes, and with years of college head coaching experience, she knows firsthand that tournaments are won on the green.
Baete took the advice and honed her putting skills. She began practicing using a yardstick, placing a golf ball on it, and trying to bring it to the other side without it wobbling or falling. Over the winter, Baete practiced 50 putts a day on the yardstick, which helped her gain more confidence in her putting.
“Kirsten’s putting has improved dramatically this year,” said Johnson. “She was very focused on speed control and adapted the reading of the putt to the speed.”
The putting would improve on Paradise Island, one of the toughest greens the team will encounter all season. On Nebraska greens, players only need to read the slope of the green to determine where to hit their putts. Reading the grain of the green also comes into play in the Bahamas.
“When it comes to grain, I try to go in circles around the hole because you can see where it is shiny and not,” says Baete. “I also look at the cup itself and see which areas are smooth and rough that come out of the cup.”
Grain doesn’t affect the angle of the putt, but it does have a significant impact on speed. Baete is leaving for the Bahamas two days early to get practice rounds and time to read the course to be very helpful for the tournament. The ability to take notes while reading the greens took the load off the actual tournament and helped the putts fall.
The two extra days not only contributed to success on the route, but also made the trip to the Bahamas a highlight of Baete’s career compared to other destinations in previous years to Hawaii and Cabo.
“We had to take the whole team with us, so all nine of us were there, which was super special. My head coach’s children were also allowed to come along, and I’m very close to them, ”said Baete. “Having them all there to party with me and hang out all week before I won made this my favorite destination I went to.”
With their first career win in the books, Baete and Johnson want to take the confidence of this tournament with them this season and hopefully continue their success with more tournament wins.
“Golf is such a mental game and for her to understand that she is a champion, she will always be a champion and she can be a champion again,” said Johnson. “That maintains confidence in their game.”