By Emily McMillan
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Madison Talley has put together one of the most unique and special seasons in Kansas State women’s golf history. The sophomore became the first individual golfer to go to a NCAA Regional in school history and her berth into this year’s tournament marked the first time the Wildcats will be represented in the postseason since 2004.
The Clarksville, Arkansas, native has put together one of the best season-to-season improvements in school history by just finding a way to be the best she can be on her own.
“Well, I am from Arkansas, a little town called Clarksville and I have two younger brothers,” Talley said. “None of my family plays golf. I was just kind of thrown in there when I was little.”
Growing up in a family that was not involved in golf, Talley had to push herself to stand out and get a chance to play at a Division I school.
“Madison is a player that has guts,” K-State head coach Kristi Knight said. “When I first saw her at the U.S. Junior Qualifier, I had never seen or heard of Madison Talley, and she caught my eye. I saw her tee off a hole and watched her for a couple. Madison finished second or third and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior Girls team. There was something about her that caught my eye, and I just liked the way she played.”
A combination of hard work and consistency has helped Talley to a great season. She has carded a stroke average of 73.93, an improvement of over eight shots from her freshman season. Throughout the year, Talley has led the team with eight top-20 and five top-10 finishes, including a career-best third place finish at the Lady Buckeye Invitational, April 18-19, in Columbus, Ohio.
Talley’s consistency once again shown through at the NCAA San Antonio Regional this past weekend, as she shot an even par 72 in each round to finish in a three-way tie for 23rd place with a score of 216.
“I think just confidence in my golf game, just knowing what shot to hit and just being comfortable in all situations,” Talley said when asked about what has changed from this year to last. “I have been learning from each situation in a previous tournament and learn from that.”
For a lot of student-athletes, keeping a competitive attitude, a positive outlook, and still playing well through a long season can be tough. Playing as an underdog, but still wanting to challenge herself and her teammates is something that makes Talley a special friend to fellow sophomore and roommate Katherine Gravel-Coursol.
“Madison, every week, no one would talk about her,” Gravel-Coursol said, “because she would not win. She was always there as an underdog. She was always playing well. It made her special. I remember when we came back from a tournament where she finished around 25th, she said that she had the same number of birdies as the girl that finished first. She kept saying what she could do tomorrow to get better. She had a great work ethic, and that is what makes her special.
“She is so focused on her goals, including playing professional golf,” Gravel-Coursol continued. “It is just more of an inspiration for me to focus, to have a goal and make it happen every day. We both love the game, so when we can practice, we challenge one another each day.”
The two roommates’ friendship started in a strange official visit to K-State when each thought the other was a little different. However, they have grown a much deeper friendship.
“It means a lot,” Gravel-Coursol said. “I was with her when she found out she was going to regionals. I always knew we were friends, and I posted a picture on my Facebook and started crying at the same time. I was just like, ‘This is so awesome,’ because I realized that I had a really good friend and we had something to share in common.”
The theme for Talley this season was improvement – doing everything she could do to make herself and her team better – and that was noticed by the program as she was honored with the most-improved player award at the team banquet last month.
“After my freshman year, I felt like I put too much stress on myself,” Talley said. “This year I just felt like things are going to happen and I cannot control them. I have just tried to balance them as well as I can. I think I have improved from my freshman year. I just tried to let things happen and control what you can.”
As a sophomore Talley is already stepping into a leadership role for her team.
“As a player she has developed into a leader on the team,” Knight said. “She is liked and respected by all her teammates. She has really shown a lot in the last year.”
Motivation to do the small things and to get better every day has helped Talley achieve her goals.
“She improved on the course and she also improved a lot off the course,” Gravel-Coursol said. “She plans a lot more about what she is going to do, and when it is time to practice, she will go practice. When she goes and practices, she has an objective, and that has helped her improve from last year.”
Part of being a student-athlete is also having success in the classroom. Earning Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honors this season, motivation on the golf course transfers well for Talley.
“I am studying education and it took me a while to decide my major, but I have just fallen in love with that and what I am learning about,” Talley said. “I think what motivates me is that I really love what I am learning about.”
Even while preparing for a NCAA Regional, Talley looks toward next year and how her team will improve.
“I have some tournaments that I am trying to qualify for,” Tally said. “Hopefully NCAAs will prepare me for that. It is a bigger field. Next year I am ready for our freshman to come in and our transfers to come in, and I think it is going to be really exciting.”
Talley shows a quiet confidence that displays in her work ethic and how she carries herself around teammates and fellow competitors.
“I cannot really describe her,” Gravel-Coursol said. “She is from Arkansas and life is so good for her and she enjoys every moment of it. She comes in like, ‘What can today bring and how can I make myself better for tomorrow?’ I think that is what makes her unique. She can adapt to every situation and make it a good situation.”
Whether in the classroom or on the green, Talley continues to show how special she really is.