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Sister Bond Helps Texas A&M Golf Team Soar at NCAA Championship

Texas A&M sisters Blanca and Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio talk with Kelly Okun.

Golf is an interesting sport – you compete as a team, but you also compete within your team. Typically, only 5 players travel to tournaments, and when there are 8-10 women on your team, well, you can do the math.

This unique dynamic makes it difficult to genuinely put the team above your own playing time. College golf coaches can attest that most of their team drama revolves around tournament qualifying. One of their most important charges is to create a team-focused culture where there’s trust, respect and support.

One team at the finals this year had built-in bonding thanks to their recruiting of two sisters. Texas A&M’s Blanca and Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio had one opportunity to compete in the NCAA Championships together given their age difference, and they made it.

Fairway to Green’s Kelly Okun spoke with both the sisters during the championship to learn what it means to have a tried-and-true supporter as a teammate and how that helps them battle the competitiveness often seen on golf teams.

Blanca, a graduate student who just finished her fifth year of playing, came from Madrid to play golf at the next level. She says, “If you want to be able to practice in facilities and have more support and stuff like that, you have to come here [to the U.S.] to improve.”

Her sister, Cayetana, just wrapped up her freshman year on the team on a high note, finishing T16 at the NCAA DI Golf Championship with an opening round of 68 (-4). She adds, “There’s a high level [of sports] here, and they give a lot of importance to sports.”

When asked if and why they enjoy being on the same team together, we got some heartfelt answers. Blanca shares, “For the last four years, I’ve been missing my family and now that she came, it’s like having my family here, so it’s amazing. She’s always with me and giving me hugs and kisses, so I love it. It’s even better when we play good.”

Cayetana says, “It’s so nice actually, I love it. We support each other. We have been playing together since we were super young, so it feels nice to have someone that loves you in a real way and is close to you. I’m super happy that we were able to share a year together.”

Many of the top-performing teams we’ve seen at the 2024 NCAA DI Women’s Golf Championship seem to have a culture that prioritizes connection. UCLA spent time at the beginning of the semester on a retreat because Coach Alicia Um Holmes recognizes that team bonding is integral to playing well, especially with the transfer portal shifting the dynamics on a team annually. With these coaches putting their student-athletes first, they’re putting their teams in the best position to win, proven by their success at the NCAA Championships this week.

Similarly, Stanford’s Kelly Xu shared with the press after winning her match to advance to the NCAA finals that she wanted to win for her teammates, who are like her sisters. Stanford Coach Anne Walker might be the most successful in creating this winning culture despite having so many individual superstars – she calls it “success by committee.”

While it’s difficult to recruit sisters to golf teams, the Garcia-Poggio sisters have proven that doing so can help both the performance and the culture of a team. The top college golf coaches here at the NCAA finals have done the next best thing and have created bonding opportunities for their players in order to cultivate a team-first mentality.

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