Saturday, March 28

Blue and gold on the green: Bruin walk-on lifts golf team with talent, personality

Freshman golfer Jacquie LeMarr gave up scholarship offers and decided to walk on UCLA women's golf to play for coach Carrie Forsyth.

Erin Ng

Chances are Jacquie LeMarr has a smile on her face.

The freshman walk-on for the women’s golf team is constantly glowing, and even though she didn’t come to UCLA with a scholarship, she did come with a presence they can’t replace.

“She’s really bubbly, she’s very spirited and she’s got a smile on her face,” said coach Carrie Forsyth. “She’s always trying and she cares about the team, and what that team concept is about.”

LeMarr started playing golf as a youngster, alongside her father. At a young age, she didn’t carry with her aspirations of playing golf so seriously ““ it was just a way to have fun with her dad.

“I played a lot of other sports, but my dad introduced golf to me. … It was on the side, but as high school started I put more and more time in it and, eventually, I realized I had a talent and I couldn’t waste it,” LeMarr said.

Her father, Rob LeMarr, noted a particular competition where the family realized what a talent their daughter had.

She was 10 years old, and she went to a tournament where she was the only girl ““ and she beat all the boys.

“There was a new pro who asked if we’d thought of all the possibilities, and we really hadn’t. When they’re nine, 10, you don’t think about that stuff,” Rob LeMarr said.

After that, she attended a junior golf camp where she encountered the coach who would so drastically influence her future: coach Forsyth of UCLA golf.

“I got to know her when she was a little kid and it had been a period of time that I hadn’t seen her,” Forsyth said.

“And then I was at a tournament and I saw the name and I said that must be little Jacquie LeMarr!”

Little did LeMarr know that Forsyth would end up being her primary mentor in college.

While she had at least five full scholarship offers, the chance to come play for the Bruin squad meant more than the cost of tuition to the LeMarr family.

Being a walk-on is tough. Not only do they pay tuition to play at the Division I level, but they are also expected to do everything the rest of the team is doing.

For a parent, it can be scary to watch a child go forth into such a tough situation, but Jacquie LeMarr’s father recognized the importance not of choosing the school with the biggest scholarship, but with the best fit for his daughter.

“We talked about it with one coach who said go where you think the fit is best,” Rob LeMarr said. “Don’t worry about the money … because you’re going to be there for four years.”

She eschewed her other scholarship offers and headed to Westwood to play for the blue and gold.

“I wanted to come here and learn and better my game, and I knew (Forsyth) was the only one I could do that for,” Jacquie LeMarr said.

“She was the one who made me say “˜Wow. I want to play for her.'”

Golf sends four or five women to each tournament, and making that roster is just as competitive as the competitions the squad travels to.

However, LeMarr not only got the opportunity to compete as a freshman, but in the very first tournament of the year.

With senior Tiffany Lua sidelined because of injury and sophomores Erynne Lee and Kyle Roig off to Turkey for the World Golf Team Championships, LeMarr and fellow freshman Louise Ridderstrom got to play.

“No one gave me that feeling that I had to be nervous, and everyone gave me the idea it would be fun and an opportunity to learn,” LeMarr said. “You don’t have a chance to play every tournament … so it was a great experience.”

There’s always a chance that any player will have to jump into that situation, and Forsyth noted a particular set of criteria she looks for in a player, particularly a walk-on.

“In a lot of ways they have to be special, a good student, be somebody we think we can develop to someone for the team and personality wise they have to be a good fit for the team and enhance the team,” Forsyth said.

The team LeMarr found in Los Angeles has been a family away from home. UCLA is a long way from her home state of Arizona, but the team has been an ample substitute. Women’s golf is such a small group that they have an atmosphere not just of teammates or friends, but something closer.

“We’re such a family in that we are so in tune with each other, we know when someone’s not playing well, when someone’s struggling,” LeMarr said.

“We’re always there to support, not judge. … We look out for each other.”

And LeMarr’s bubbly personality perfectly complements the team.

“From what I’ve seen she’s enthusiastic, and she has a really positive attitude,” Lua said. “It helps if you’re having a rough day to have someone there like that.”

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