Taryn Torgerson’s swing didn’t feel right the day before the Missouri Valley Conference championships. She had a plane to catch. Dad came to the rescue for a 7 a.m. session at Willowbend Golf Club.
“My dad (Brennan) drove an hour … to help me fine-tune some things and get me some confidence before I stepped on the plane to Chicago,” she said. “That 30 to 45 minutes was huge. He wouldn’t let me leave the course that day without me believing in myself and without me knowing that he believed in me.”
Four days later, Torgerson, a sophomore from Buhler, won medalist honors at the MVC tournament to lead Wichita State to its third straight conference title. Her score of 214 was the second-best in tournament history.
The Shockers play in their third straight NCAA regional starting Thursday at University Golf Club in Baton Rouge, La. They are seeded No. 17 in the 18-team regional, which will send six teams and three individuals to the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., on May 20-25.
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Brennan and Kristie Torgerson flew to Baton Rouge on Wednesday to watch their daughter, traveling with the Shockers as they do for most tournaments. Brennan Torgerson coached her in high school at Buhler and works with her during the summers. The emergency session at Willowbend was a natural extension of those days. He reminded her to take the club back straight and turn her body more aggressively through the ball.
“I went there and reminded her of the things that make her good,” he said. “That half hour was very productive.”
Torgerson’s MVC title capped a two-year rise from lightly recruited freshman to medalist. As a junior at Buhler, she hadn’t played many out-of-state tournaments and she began to worry college coaches weren’t aware of her.
“I was kind of losing hope a little bit when all the schools were shutting down,” she said.
That summer, before her senior season, she finished 33rd in the Optimist International Tournament in Florida and sought out tournaments against good competition.
“That really helped get my name out there,” she said. “I proved to myself that I can play with anybody. That gave me confidence.”
Interest from colleges picked up. She continued to play well as a senior at Buhler and won the 2013 Class 4A title. She picked WSU over Drake and also considered Central Missouri and Nebraska-Omaha.
WSU coach Tom McCurdy loved her background as a multi-sport athlete, one who played basketball and threw the discus, shot put and javelin. He knew she would take coaching and work hard. He didn’t expect the rapid rise to the top of the MVC. She came to WSU, McCurdy said, as the No. 8 golfer on an eight-person roster.
“Now she’s No. 1,” he said. “Not only that, No. 1 in the conference. I’ve never been around a person who’s improved this much in this short of a time.”
Taryn Torgerson also values her time away from the golf course in high school. Golf, in her view, is more rewarding when viewed as a team sport and playing basketball imprinted those habits. Teammates Gavrilla Arya, Bryce Schroeder, Maria Allejandra Villalobos and Meghan Jack all finished in the top 12 at the MVC tournament, lifting the Shockers into the NCAA field.
“Golf is an individual game, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t have won three straight Valley championships without all five of us,” she said. “You can accomplish way more as a team than you can as an individual.”
As a freshman, she shot a 242 and finished in a tie for 21st in the MVC tournament. Three weeks ago in Chicago, she double-bogeyed a hole and recovered to birdie the next one on her way to a second-round 69.
“Last year, if I made a double (bogey), I wouldn’t recover,” she said. “I just don’t let things bother me. The quality of my bad shots, this year, is great improved.”
McCurdy considers golf a sport where learning and improvement come in small bits. Torgerson’s progress sped past his experiences, perhaps, her father said, because she focused on golf for the first time. While she always hit strong off the tee, her short game is now also a strength.
“She’s very athletic and she hits the ball a long way,” McCurdy said. “Everything was there — she just needed to learn how to play the game. She can go play any golf course and score and she’s got all the shots to do that.”