Experience and success often reflect a hand-in-hand relationship in golf.
At least, it has worked that way for former Louisville standout and three-time all-conference selection Laura Restrepo.
The Panama native is hoping that experience continues to pay dividends this week. She is vying for one of 20 LPGA Tour cards, when she begins competition on Wednesday at the Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament Stage III at the Jones and Hills courses at LPGA International in Dayton Beach, Fla.
Rewind, though, nearly five years to the start of Restrepo’s collegiate career. Playing on tour wasn’t immediately evident.
“I just assumed I was going to get into the lineup right away,” Restrepo said when she arrived at UofL. “It was really hard. It was a reality check when I didn’t qualify for the first two events. That made me realize this is an adjustment. I need to pull myself together, work harder, and it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought coming in.”
The Panama native played in nine competitions her freshman campaign in 2012-13, compiling a 4-over-par 76.37 average. Her best tournament score – and finish – came in her final event, with a 4-over-par 220 at the BIG EAST Championship to take seventh.
That performance, which helped Restrepo attain all-conference honors, seemingly propelled her into becoming one of the program’s most decorated and recognized athletes.
“I remember the very end of the year, I was playing really well,” Restrepo said. “I was just really struggling with my putting. I was hitting the ball close, I was hitting fairways and greens, and three-putting from everywhere. I remember finishing that year and being really frustrated because I didn’t play as well as I wanted to – or as I could have – and I worked out really hard that summer. I played a lot of tournaments and worked hard that summer and came back that next year right off the bat really hot.”
Restrepo had a remarkable sophomore year, earning all-conference honors for the second-consecutive season. She logged a 1-over-par 73.15 average for the second-lowest mark in a season in school history – at the time. In addition to shaving off three strokes, she totaled six top 10 finishes, and shot 13 rounds even or below par in 12 events.
The 5-foot-7 golfer helped deliver Louisville its fifth team conference championship, winning The American, and the Cardinals earned their first NCAA Regional Championship appearance after a two-year hiatus.
After a solid junior season, tallying another four top-10 finishes, Restrepo wrapped up her collegiate career in 2015-16 in impressive fashion. Beyond the offseason work, she attributes much of that success to a preseason conversation with head coach Courtney Trimble.
“My senior year, I remember talking to coach Trimble,” Restrepo said, “and she told me, ‘A lot of seniors struggle their last year because they put all this expectation that this is their last year and they have to play really well if they want to play professionally.’
“I remember her telling me that, and I made it my mission that I wasn’t going to let myself add any more pressure because it was my last year or because I wanted to play pro the next year, that I was just going to take it one day at a time.”
The terrific player-coach relationship and simple dialogue helped Restrepo capture her third all-conference accolade, becoming the first golfer in school history to earn all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. She shot a 73.06 average, the second-lowest mark in school history, and five top-10 showings.
Restrepo, who graduated with a 3.52 grade-point average in finance, now had a new focus. Though she felt prepared for the next chapter, her professional career started slowly – similar to the beginning of her collegiate days – but that didn’t last long.
“My main goal for last year after I didn’t make it through the first stage of Q-school and I was very disappointed was to get more experience,” Restrepo said. “College was an awesome experience, but you play about four tournaments a semester. I needed to be playing a lot more.
“I played over 30 tournaments this year, which I’ve never done that, so learning how to travel, playing back-to-back-to-back weeks (were challenging). In college, sometimes we did play two in a row. That aspect I had to improve on, getting more experience, traveling by myself, and making every decision on my own.”
Restrepo advanced beyond Stage I of Q-School in August and – similar to her sophomore season – began picking up steam. Playing in the National Women’s Golf Association, she won two titles and later added two runner-up finishes, accumulating 10 top-10 marks in 13 tournaments.
With a full year of playing on the Symetra Tour under her belt, the upcoming opportunity is quite appealing. Restrepo, though, has gained enough experience to understand that success may not be immediate.
“Even though this what I’ve been working for all year, this is not the end-all be-all,” Restrepo said. “This is still preparation for the future; my career is very long. This is another learning experience. I have improved a lot this year and accomplished a lot, so I take some confidence out of that. I’m taking it one shot at a time. That’s all you can do. You can’t think what’s at stake or what’s going to happen. You have to play one shot at a time.”
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University of Louisville Athletics