Texas Tech golfer Gabby Barker (Shoshone/Paiute) spent her holiday break putting a golf ball across shag carpet into a coffee cup. She says it is because Southern Idaho weather wasn’t conducive to getting in any real work on the golf course in her hometown of Caldwell.
“Sometimes you can get out in February, other times it’s snowing,” she said with a laugh. “It’s funny that way, but you do what you can.”
Gabby Barker - (Texas Tech Athletics)
The Lady Raider sophomore goes into the second half of the NCAA Division I schedule as one of the rising stars in women’s college golf. Barker won twice last fall, sharing medalist honors at the Jim West Challenge Oct. 4 before winning her first career individual title the next time out at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational.
She was named the Big 12 October Player of the Month and became just the second Texas Tech golfer to earn GolfStat’s No. 1 ranking, joining current LPGA professional Kim Kaufman, who accomplished the distinction in 2012.
Barker’s hard work and attention to detail has put her in a position to take a run at a Big 12 championship as well as put her in the conversation as a contender at the NCAA National Championship in May.
“The fall was very exhilarating because I got my first two wins in college golf,” said Barker, who is also on the Annika Award watch list, which is similar to the Heisman in college football. “I would say putting was the big difference. I’ve put a lot more work into putting than I did my freshman year. I’m more confident from the five-to-10-foot range, which is key to scoring. I certainly have higher expectations for the spring. But I’m going to capitalize on what I did in the fall and keep improving.”
Barker played against an international field at the Junior World Championships in both 2012 and 2014. When the NCAA season starts again in February, she’ll take a run at her first international tournament, the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in San Juan. “I don’t think playing in another country really matters. A tournament is a tournament,” said Barker, who goes into the tournament ranked No. 8 in the nation. “I just want the team to play well and I’ll do what I can to make that happen.”
Sophomore Gabby Barker was the female Big 12 golfer of the month of October - (Texas Tech photo)
Barker finished in a tie for 29th at the NCAA women’s championships last year, including a 3-under-par 69 in the final round to help the Lady Raiders finish sixth as a team. Experience under fire is shaping her into one of the most prominent Native women golfers in the country.
“I would say my confidence is the biggest difference between last year at the national tournament and where I am now,” said Barker, who has a 5-0 mark this season against top-25 golfers.
“Last year, I was thinking if I could get in the top 15 that’d be great. Now, I have more confidence in myself to play to a higher level. The key to playing at nationals is staying with it. There’s people that hit one bad shot and think they lost it. I keep telling myself that the tournament isn’t over until the last putt and we’ll see how it is when all the scores come up.”
Follow Rodney Harwood on Twitter at @RodneyHarwood