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Goddard grad leads Tech golf to national status

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Goddard grad and current head coach JoJo Robertson talks to one of her Texas Tech golfers earlier in this season. (Texas Tech Athletic Communications Photo)

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Goddard High School is known for its who’s who of championship golfers, which includes JoJo Robertson and her mother, former golf coach Becky Robertson, who won 14 state titles in 16 years. During those 16 years, she not only coached her daughter, JoJo, but also was the coach behind future LPGA star Gerina Piller.

JoJo, having come from a long line of coaches, won three individual state titles herself. Her father Andy also excels in the coaching profession — he was a former football coach and now serves as the current golf coach for New Mexico Military Institute. JoJo’s brother Greg also carries on the tradition as men’s golf coach at Purdue University.

JoJo enjoyed a successful career at Oklahoma State University and played a year and a half on the Futures Tour. Some of JoJo’s other accomplishments include two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Champion, and one of only four women to ever do so. She also played on the Curtis Cup team for the United States vs. Europeans, which the U.S. won, as well as in two U.S. Opens where her brother caddied for her.

JoJo has played golf her whole life and wanted to do it so that she wouldn’t have any regrets. During her golfing career, she has had a lot of support from the people of Roswell.

Getting her start in coaching

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JoJo came back to New Mexico Military Institute and became a coach after she ended her playing days. She loved golf and felt like coaching would help her stay around competitive college golf.

“I loved my college experience at Oklahoma State,” Robertson said. “I loved my coach. I loved everything about it. It seemed like a good thing for me. Getting a start in coaching is one of the hardest things to do — getting your foot in the door. I was pretty patient and lucky. My brother was an assistant men’s golf coach at Purdue University.”

JoJo was able to go to Purdue for a year as the assistant golf professional at their golf course. It took a year as she was able to move into a coaching position since Purdue’s assistant coach took another job — a job she held for five years before coming to Texas Tech. While coaching at Purdue, she coached an individual national champion and an individual runner-up to the national champion. In five years, her teams finished second, fourth and 10th in the NCAA.

“It was a great experience for me to see college golf played at that high of a level,” Robertson said. “To be around those players and learn from them, to see what it takes to win. I worked for Devon Brouse who I consider the best coach in college golf. He was the perfect person for me because he reminded me a lot of my dad.”

Tech not on her radar

With the success of the 2009 season, Purdue had the National Champion Player of the Year in Maria Hernandez, while Robertson was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Tech contacted her about their opening and she was hired.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” JoJo said. “This is such a comfortable place for me, it all worked out perfectly and nothing was planned. I plan on staying as long as they’ll have me.”

Dad

“My dad is awesome,” JoJo said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without my mom or my dad. He and I are extremely close. I feel so lucky to be in Lubbock, Texas, and be two and a half hours away from Roswell, New Mexico.”

JoJo feels like her dad developed the toughness in her to succeed in life and as a coach.

“My dad instilled in me what hard work is,” JoJo said. “What it takes to be successful as an athlete or person. It wasn’t easy growing up, because he wanted things done the right way, of course now at my age, I look back and I’m so grateful for all of that guidance. He’s awesome. He’s another inspiration to me. Just like my mom, he influences people — it might not show up on the scoreboard, but he makes an impact on people’s lives and he makes you a better person after you’ve spent time with him.”

Mom

“My mom was an awesome coach,” Robertson said. “As many coaches as I’ve been around even at the level of college, (mom) being a high school coach, she still stands out as one of the best I’ve been around. She taught me so many things that I realized now. She did things on the high school level and made golf fun and popular. It’s pretty incredible how successful she was.”

JoJo feels like not a lot of people realize how many players her mother coached that went on to play college golf. She estimates at least 25 of the players her mother coached earned a scholarship and was able to get an education.

No Jealousy

Many times, brothers and sisters are jealous of having their parents’ affections, so it’s only natural to want to be jealous of other athletes’ relationships with your parents and want their time, but JoJo never felt that way.

“I just knew deep down where I stood with mom,” JoJo said. “There was never any jealousy on my part. I think that’s another thing that makes my mom so amazing — she made time for everybody. It didn’t matter if you were the No.1 player on the team or the No.10 player — you just knew where you stood and what your role was. I had the luxury of coming home at night and being able to talk to her. The other players needed to be able to talk to her at matches and practice. I didn’t think twice about it.”

No Pressure

JoJo never felt she had to win her mother’s love or prove anything because she was Becky Robertson’s daughter. JoJo felt like her mother handled it well when she played for her while in high school. She didn’t think she got any breaks because she was her daughter.

“For me, I was competing for my school,” JoJo said. “I was competing for her, so I just wanted to do my best and win for my school and her. There was never any pressure coming from home. I think that is something I’m grateful for, too, that both of my parents were coaches. I think they understood that all you can do is prepare the best you can and compete as high as you can, and you can’t control anything else. My brother (Greg) and I never had pressure on us to win.”

JoJo marvels that her mom taught so many seventh- to 12th-graders that came out to play and she had time for everyone and was able to make each athlete feel special. Everybody loved her mother and enjoyed playing for her and left with great memories.

Favorite memory at Goddard

JoJo’s most enjoyable memories are her teammates, which she stays in touch with to this day. Her teammates and her will get together and talk about stories of when they played and laughed about the bus rides. The thing that JoJo misses most about her golfing days at Goddard are the bus rides. In college, it isn’t that way and it’s not that way on the LPGA tour.

“I missed the bus ride,” JoJo said. “I miss meeting at Spring River golf course at 4 a.m., or 5 a.m. and getting on the bus to the tournament you’re going to play that day. Those are the things that I miss that were good times. I missed my teammates more than anything.”

Coaching

JoJo still calls home and talks to both of her parents and seeks advice from their years of experience. The things her parents have imparted to her is to work hard every day and try and be the best she can be as a person and coach.

“I hope by being the best that I can be brings out the best in my athletes,” JoJo said. “I’m more concerned about doing things the right way, not necessarily the easy way. I teach my athletes to follow the rules. Am I creating a good environment for the people on my team and the people around me?”

JoJo has coached All-Americans in her tenure at Tech, with one of the players being on the LPGA Tour now.

“My philosophy is, let’s take care of everything during practice,” JoJo said. “I want our practices to be challenging and to be hard. When it comes to tournament time, I’m more than happy to let the players make their own decisions. I know how it is as a player. As a player, they may have something in mind that they’re committed to, and the last thing they need is to have someone doubting their decisions or making them think their choice is not right. I try to know my limits and which player I’m dealing with. I’m as hands-on as a player would like. I try to get my players to have the right attitude and improve each day — if they can do that, we’re on the right track.”

Recruiting

JoJo is looking for the best players in the world to recruit and play at Texas Tech. She will look around the world.

“What’s important to us is they’re good students,” JoJo said, “so they can handle the workload of college and the classes we miss every semester. We want players that understand what the college opportunity is. They have a chance to get a world-class education and compete and improve every day. We’re looking for players at the top of their game but have room to improve because we’ll have them for four years. We’re looking for athletes that are coachable and want to be a part of Texas Tech.”

Recruiting is an important and fun part of JoJo’s job. The biggest part of her job is projecting how good an athlete can be and how much more they will improve and fit into her coaching philosophy and yet be good teammates to the players on her roster.

Normally, JoJo will carry eight on her roster, with four returning players. She will have four freshmen coming in for the fall.

JoJo’s advice for golfers

JoJo knows that a lot of golfers feel like they can compete at the Big 12, Big 10 and one of the Power Five conferences. She added that as a high school junior, it is important for them to go out and play as much as they can. Winning a state title means a golfer is playing at a high level. But, when athletes think about earning a spot on a team, they have to look at the international player as well.

“I tell golfers,” JoJo said, “it’s one thing to be the best golfer in your town or city, but you just want to get out there and compete as much as you can. The size of the tournament doesn’t matter — it’s about competing and getting experience. When you have experience outside of high school team golf, you learn how to win tournaments, how to shoot under par, all that stuff helps you so much when you get to college. You’re coming in as a freshman competing for a spot on the travel team against seniors, and they have three years on you.”

Dedication

In JoJo’s experience, the best junior and high school golfers out there are the most dedicated and have goals of playing college golf and professional golf is a goal for them. JoJo thinks they are probably used to working out and have a set practice schedule.

“I think they are also working on their mental game,” JoJo said. “They probably have a mental coach as well as a swing coach — they see quite a bit. The encouraging thing is there are so many levels of college golf opportunities out there for a golfer and scholarships for girls. A young lady has to start in advance and you can’t wait until their senior year. An athlete has to know where they fit in. I would recommend they research, start contacting schools, because there is a place for everyone.”

Takeaways

JoJo wants her players to know how fortunate they are to play at a world-class facility, travel and represent Texas Tech. She also knows the ladies receive a great education and that once they leave Tech, they will miss it and think how great of a place Tech was.

“The biggest takeaways are the things you learn in golf,” JoJo said. “If you set your mind to doing something and you approach it with the right attitude anything is possible. What you put into life is what you get out of it.”

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