Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In a sport that is heavily individual, it serves two University of Texas women's golfers well to have each other's undivided support. Both reigning from Ontario, Canada, the two have a special bond that transcends the course and into their personal lives.
Junior Nicole Vandermade and freshman Rebecca Lee-Bentham have known each other since their early teenage years. Growing up in the Canadian golf scene, the duo got to know each other quite well. However, it was ultimately their selection for the Canadian national team, coupled with their commitment to UT that has bonded them.
"I can remember playing with her in one of her first tournaments ever," Vandermade said of her younger teammate. "I was 15, and she was 13 or so. I'm turning 21 this year, so that's a long time." According to both, their experiences on the National team are what have made them closest.
"The Canadian golf scene is small, so you get to know each other well because it's such a small community," said Vandermade. But it's sharing that incredible honor to represent their country that has made the difference. "It's an honor and a privilege that we both do not take lightly, and it's a lot of fun sharing those experiences," she said.
Selecting a college was a difficult decision for Vandermade, yet when she visited the UT campus with her parents, she knew it was a perfect fit. "I just loved everything about it. I loved campus, the feel of Austin, and the people here. The University of Texas has a lot of things to offer, and so I just fell in love with it right away and it made my choice pretty easy."
When the time came for Rebecca to choose a school, Nicole knew that she wanted her fellow Canadian to be a Longhorn. "I really wanted her to come here, and I knew that she would love it. I was heavily involved in the process of recruiting her," Vandermade said.
The process worked. "The people on the team, and Nicole, really drew me in," said Lee-Bentham. "I was able to have close relationships with each of them right away."
Having so much in common has made it easier on both of the women to be away from home. They are able to relate to each other like no one else, sharing their unique memories.
"It's just really fun to have someone from your own country on your team because there are so many little things that you miss from back home," Vandermade said. Lee-Bentham agreed, saying that they "share inside jokes and little stuff. When things happen, we laugh about it together."
"It's also fun because we're also at training camps together for the National team. When we're on the National team we can relate about Texas stuff, and when we're at Texas we can relate about National team stuff. It's really cool," Vandermade added.
Vandermade is an obvious leader on the team, but says she prefers to "lead by example". "I try to just work hard at practice. I'm not really someone who is going to be very vocal."
It's that quiet leadership that younger players like Rebecca look up to. "She's always there for me when I have questions," Lee-Bentham said about her teammate. "She's been through it all pretty much, so if I have any questions, I can count on her to answer them for me."
Although the two are looking forward to a possible Olympic appearance in 2016 for their home country, they are both completely focused on Texas golf.
"We're really looking forward making it to the NCAA Championships and improving the ranking and performance of the Texas golf team," Vandermade said.