Four of the seven members of the women’s golf team are originally from countries outside the United States —freshmen Emilie Ricaud and Marija Jucmane and sophomores Audrey Tan and Patricia Sinolungan. By supporting each other, they have been able to overcome the challenges of adjusting to a new country and playing collegiate golf.
Hailing from New Caledonia, a small island east of Australia, Ricaud has come into her own with the team as of late, finishing last week’s ICON Invitational at +2 and tied for No. 15 individually. With it being her best statistical finish thus far with the Mean Green, it led to her being honored as the Conference USA Women’s Golfer of the Week.
While Ricaud mainly credited adjusting to college golf and general improvement for her success, she also cited her teammates as helping make the transition easier.
“They are so sweet, each of them,” Ricaud said. “It’s like a little family, everyone helping each other.”
Tan said two of the upperclassmen on the team, senior Lauren Cox and junior Madison Lewis, were helpful in her adjustment to collegiate golf and living in the U.S.
“The team [is] amazing over here,” Tan said. “I just have to give a shoutout to Lauren because she was the one, her and Madison really, they sort of took me and [Sinolungan] under their wings and showed us how this whole thing works.”
Supporting each other is a high priority for the team, and the chemistry between the international players is particularly strong. Head coach Michael Akers has seen this bond throughout his time coaching and feels it is a product of their unique circumstances.
“When you have people from all over the world, their families are a long way away, so their family becomes the team, just like that,” Akers said. “I saw it at Texas State and I’ve seen it here, they just become an instant family.”
Sinolungan pointed to having a fellow freshman and international player as being very beneficial in adapting to the U.S. She and Tan, coming from Indonesia and Malaysia respectively, were able to relate to each other through similar cultures and support each other as college freshmen in a foreign country.
“The team definitely helped me,” Sinolungan said. “Having a fellow freshman in Audrey, someone that is very similar to me, coming in at 17 years old and from similar cultures, I [had] a friend to go through the difficulties of adjusting freshman year with.”
Working hard in the classroom is a good indicator of successful golfers, according to Akers. He feels the team reflects this with every player achieving above a 3.0 GPA last semester.
“It’s just amazing to me, in doing this so long, they can be good students and good golfers,” Akers said. “And if they let their grades kind of lax, there’s other parts of their life that they let go by as well … I do feel like it goes hand-in-hand.”
Jucmane, who had never been to the U.S. prior to attending North Texas, is from Riga, Latvia, and was impacted by the team environment, which helped her adapt to living in America. She adapted to the demands of doing well in classes and playing golf at the same time, while helping team members overcome their homesickness and instead focus on the tasks at hand.
“Calling, talking with my family, that helps and also being busy,” Jucmane said. “With travel, you don’t have that much time to feel homesick. Being very present with the things I do helps me.”
Above all, the team’s supportive environment helps players improve as golfers and gives them someone to depend on when they miss their families and homes.
“This team has been my second family,” Tan said. “When you’re over here and you get caught up with the work and the team … you forget about being homesick.”
Featured Image: Freshman Emilie Ricaud watches as her teammates finish putting on the last hole of practice on Feb 28, 2020. Image by Samuel Gomez