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Friday, April 12, 2024

The big sister program: How Florida women’s golf brings its team together

Coach Emily Glaser found a unique way to unite her team before this season

Florida women's golf coach Emily Glaser and Maisie Filler at Mark Bostick Golf Course on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey
Florida women's golf coach Emily Glaser and Maisie Filler at Mark Bostick Golf Course on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey

When Inés Archer first stepped on UF’s campus, she felt what most college freshmen feel upon arrival: fear, excitement and confusion. Not only was she an international student, she was also about to join a women’s golf team full of upperclassmen and experienced players she barely knew.

“University of Florida, it’s such a big school,” Archer said. “I was really scared coming up here and then seeing those senior players that are really good. You don’t speak the same language. It’s not my native language. It’s always hard.” 

The Florida women’s golf team came into the 2023-2024 season with a unique split in the class of its players. The roster included a majority of upperclassmen and new players. 

Coach Emily Glaser, who is in her 12th year as head coach, wanted to find a way to unite her team by using her seniors' experience to its advantage. From this, the big sister program was formed. 

“We called it a ‘big sis’ program,” Glaser said. “We had four new players… and then four seniors at the time so we thought this is a unique opportunity to kind of align them together so that they could help each other.” 

Younger players now feel more comfortable asking certain questions to another member of the team, rather than the coaches. 

Each new player was matched with a veteran player who was deemed her ‘big sis.’ The big sister would answer any questions the new player could think of, from how the golf course works to what to buy for their dorm room. They also took their little sister out for dinner, ice cream and around campus to make her feel welcome. 

“She’s doing a great job,” said Archer about senior Maisie Filler, her assigned big sister. “We’re three new freshmen, and everything was new for us and really stressful the first few days. And so, I think I spent maybe 10 hours calling Maisie like, ‘Hey, I need help.’” 

She also mentioned the help she received from all the older players on the team. Archer reaches out to them with questions about school, golf and other personal matters, she said. 

But it wasn’t just the freshman who got something out of this experience. Fifth-year Jackie Lucena enjoyed the new energy these players brought in and said their youth makes the team environment more fun.

Lucena wanted to do her part as a leader on the team to make the new players comfortable in their new environment.

“It can be intimidating to ask questions in a room with everyone on the team,” Lucena said. “‘Where’s this class? How do I do this? How do I see the nutritionist?’ So it just kind of takes the pressure off, and just someone you could automatically go to that’s not your head coach.” 

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Filler, the No. 2 ranked player in the country, said she was excited for what the freshmen could bring to the team. 

“I was a bit nervous just because our team dynamic is interesting in that we have such a split of older and younger,” Fuller said. 

However, she had nothing to worry about. The program quickly worked its magic.

Filler said the veteran players have been guiding the newcomers, and it’s been a positive dynamic watching the team grow since the fall. 

Getting the team adjusted and comfortable with school and each other as quickly as possible clearly worked for the Gators. They are currently the No. 9 women’s golf team in the country with three tournament wins this season.

“I think it’s definitely been crucial in our success on the golf course,” Filler said. “We all just have the same mindset and goals in what we want to do, and we all just get along really well. It’s been really awesome to see that.”

Archer, who has been a major contributing player in the Gators’ lineup, now feels acclimated to the program and like a true part of the UF community.

“I feel so grateful and so proud because it’s such a big school, and also you represent not only yourself or the team, you represent Gator nation,” Archer said. “When I came here, I understood that and I’ve never felt that way before.”  

Contact Hannah Getman at hgetman@alligator.org. Follow her on X @hannahgetman.



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