Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
It’s often said when God closes a door, he often leaves a window open. For former Goddard golfer and current Texas Tech women’s golf coach JoJo Robertson, that could not be truer.
If JoJo had her druthers, she would love to be making her living on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. JoJo played on the Futures Professional Tour from 2000-02.
It seems like the LPGA’s loss is Texas Tech’s gain. In 16 short years, her rise has been nothing short of meteoric. JoJo has stormed into Lubbock with “Guns Up” and put the Red Raiders on the map as one of the premier golfing destinations in Division I.
JoJo thought she might not be able to make a living as a professional golfer on tour. She felt the best way to stay in the game she loves was to help develop the next generations of golfers.
After a stellar playing career at Oklahoma State, her college coach made an impact on the way JoJo thought golf should be played at the collegiate level. JoJo became an assistant professional at New Mexico Military Institute Golf Course and was there until 2004.
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After leaving NMMI, she became an assistant coach at Purdue where she coached Maria Hernandez, who won the Big 10 championships and the 2009 National Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Championship.
Since being hired at Tech, the Red Raiders have reached an NCAA Regional nine times during Robertson’s tenure, two trips of which resulted in advancing to the NCAA Championships. During her career as a player at Oklahoma State, as an assistant coach at Purdue, and as Texas Tech’s head coach, she has made it to the NCAA Tournament in all but one season.
“I feel fortunate,” JoJo said, “to have had so many people help me along the way. My parents, coaches, teammates, all have inspired me and helped make me what I am today.”
Possibly the highlight of Robertson’s tenure came at the end of the 2014-15 season when she led the Red Raiders to a fifth-place finish in the NCAA Championships, Tech’s highest finish ever nationally. It might have been her best moment to date because it came in her first year as coach of the Red Raiders.
Tech was making their second appearance in the NCAA Championships, and used a strong final round from Gabby Barker to overcome a five-shot deficit to advance past the stroke-play portion as one of the top eight teams.
“We went from happy to be there — “ JoJo said, “it was only the second time in the history of the program — to actually making the cut and participating in the first year of match play. It was awesome.”
One of the reasons for JoJo’s success is the efforts she puts into recruiting. She is a tireless worker and will recruit not only in this country but in other countries for the talent that will help Tech win a national championship.
JoJo likes having divergent personalities, with as many as eight players each year on the team. Her main goal is getting the players to become a team, with the common goal of winning a championship; and the other goal is to bring out the best in each player individually.
“What I try to do,” JoJo said, “is foster a caring, family feeling to accomplish the goal of winning a team championship, and having each golfer be the best they can be in their own individual game.”
On top of recruiting, another bonus is that she has transformed Tech into a golfing power, is their state-of-the-art golfing facility. The Rawls golf course has recently added their team facility. Tech has an actual clubhouse and its own building. They have renovated their own short game area that opened in September.
Tech has added a wedge facility and a putting area and chipping green for the golf team only. The Red Raiders have their own building and hitting bays that include mirrors so the players can look at their swing. They also have a workout facility for bad weather in January and February.
At the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the Rawls Golf Course was ranked by Golfweek as the second-best golf course to play in the state of Texas as well as the nation’s fourth-best campus golf course. Texas Tech sells itself as a world-class golfing facility.
“I think Texas Tech really sells itself,” JoJo said. “I think when a player comes to Lubbock and sees the campus and our facilities and everything we have to offer, with the people we have around Tech, it’s huge. When they drive out and see our golf course and see they can play that course every single day, it is going to make them better. I think one thing that separates us over other schools is our golf course is on campus, and the players are five minutes away from the golf course if they are in the center of campus.”
Pandemic hit team
COVID-19 pandemic hit Tech when they were playing their fourth tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The team stopped for lunch and were told to come home. The rest of the season was canceled. It was such a weird situation with the team coming home thinking they could take a week or two off to get ready for conference play. JoJo never thought her team would not play in the Big 12 or regionals.
“I totally understand why they canceled the season,” JoJo said, “it is something no one saw coming. We have to do what we have to do to get through this phase. I can get hung up on the little things, or results. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking it’s life or death on the golf course and it’s not. Experiencing things like people losing their jobs or dying. I think this pandemic will make me and my team appreciate golf and to see things differently.”
On Monday, JoJo will meet with her team. She has not seen them since their season was canceled in March. Recently, the Big 12 athletic directors voted to play golf and tennis this season. As JoJo moves into a new season and has to face questions never asked before, she knows she can call her parents Andy and Becky Robertson for advice.
“Mom (Becky Robertson) has impacted my career,” JoJo said. “Mom is one of the best people I have ever been around. She amazes me every day and puts 100% effort into everything she does. I learned she cared for everybody on our high school golf team. It didn’t matter if they were the best player or the last player, mom cared for them and made them feel special. It has gone a long way with me.”
“Dad (Andy Robertson) is a great person, too, JoJo said. “The thing I admire about him is, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. You always know where you stand with him. At the same time, if you’re on my dad’s team, he will take care of you and treat you like family, or one of his kids. He’ll bend over backward for you if you’re playing for him.”
As JoJo starts another season, she never forgets growing up in Roswell, and the friends she has made along the way.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.