Big 12 Campus Correspondent
When Katerina Ruzickova was a senior in high school, very few Division I colleges knew her name. Currently in her second season as a member of the Texas A&M women's golf team, she has shown her absent suitors what they're really missing.
During Kat's senior year of high school at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., time was running low to choose a collegiate program to become a part of and nobody was calling the Ruzickova home. Enter Katerina's older brother Marek, who had competed in college golf in Oklahoma.
Knowing a little more of how the college system works, Marek sent a resume of his younger sister's accolades to nearly any Division-I program with an email address. One of the schools on his list was Texas A&M University, where women's head coach Trelle McCombs received the email and replied within minutes.
"I got the email from her brother and after I saw her resume, I called as soon as I could," McCombs said. "I chatted with Marek for a bit and the rest is history."
After talking with McCombs, Ruzickova made a visit to Texas A&M in College Station. Ruzickova said she had a hunch that this school was "the one" even before she arrived.
"I knew right away when I was coming here on the plane that this was going to be good," Ruzickova said. "Even though I didn't even know how it looked, I could just feel the spirit and the 12th Man on the way over."
But why would an Arizona 5-A state champion be off the map for Division-I programs? One of the reasons could be that Ruzickova was unable to compete during her final year at Xavier.
After coming to the United States from Ostrava, Czech Republic, Ruzickova started playing high school golf at Xavier. She blasted onto the scene during her first year in the desert, winning the state title her junior year.
But just months after Kat took first at state, the Arizona Interscholastic Association formalized a rule prohibiting foreign exchange athletes from competing in more than one year of high school athletics. In one fell swoop, Ruzickova was demoted from champion to caddy.
"It was a little bit of bad luck," Ruzickova said. "I won the state championship as an individual, and I feel like that brought attention from other coaches to think 'who is this girl, where is she from.' After that, the AIA finalized the rule that international students could only compete for one year."
But Ruzickova wouldn't let her situation dampen her spirits. She became a manager for the team, still practiced hard with her coaches and cheered on her teammates during competitions.
"So many people said the important thing was for me to graduate," Ruzickova said. "They said if I graduate from there, I have better options to go to college where I can play golf. But although I couldn't compete, I still could practice. I used my time to work to get my grades up and I didn't let it affect me too much."
McCombs said that the way Ruzickova acted during her senior year is a great example of the person she is at heart.
"I knew what kind of player she was from her resume, but I didn't know what kind of ethics she had as a person, which are unmatched," McCombs said. "When she was ineligible her senior year she could have lashed out, but she didn't. That's the kind of player Kat is - she wont' be bummed out."
But after her year of ineligibility, Kat was let loose back into the golf world, where she flexed her athletic prowess once more.
As a freshman Kat had six top-10 finishes in tournaments, eight top-25 finishes, broke the A&M freshman stroke record with a season average of 73.12, tied for second in the Big 12 Championship and tied for sixth overall in the 2011 NCAA National Championship.
But McCombs says that Ruzickova is much more than a talented golfer; her real leadership shines through her kind personality.
"Katerina is one of the most kindhearted people that I know," McCombs said. "She's an 'acts of service' type person. She sees the good in people, and is really a coaches' dream."
Kat says that her kindhearted personality fits right in with the people she has made connections with in the state of Texas.
"I feel like people in Texas are particularly very open," Ruzickova said. "Anything I needed help with, they were always there and I didn't even have to ask. I really felt like I fit in and that I am welcome here."
From a nearly unknown recruit to one of college golf's top athletes, Ruzickova's journey has been an interesting one. Into her second season as an Aggie, Ruzickova and her head coach have goals they are working to achieve.
"I think that Katerina can win the National Championship alongside her team," McCombs said. "I think she also believes that - she has high expectations as well."