UCI’s Strokes of Excellence
Both Henderson and Lorenzana began playing golf before they reached middle school and, while they both excelled in other sports growing up, they knew golf was what they wanted to focus on. “I was pretty lucky that my parents let me play other [sports],” Henderson said. “But in high school we knew it was time to focus on golf.”
Besides an early love for golf, both Henderson and Lorenzana come from families with huge fighting spirits. Both of Henderson’s older brothers wrestled throughout high school, where dad Barney was the coach, and college. You may be familiar with one of the brothers, Olympic participant and Ultimate Fighting Championship standout, Dan Henderson.
Growing up on a farm, the value of hard work was instilled in Henderson early on. “I had to do everything 100 percent. Whether it was a chore, or school or sports, everything was 100 percent,” Henderson said.
Lorenzana’s family has been fighting an entirely different battle. Both her mom and older sister have been diagnosed with breast cancer. “It’s really scary to know that I have a high chance of getting [breast cancer],” Lorenzana said. However, the fight and resiliency that her family members have shown and the support they have received and given each other are evidence that anything is beatable.
Their struggles have been on the course, too. While Lorenzana admits to struggling with her game around the news of her sister’s cancer, Henderson’s swing seemed to have evaporated at the beginning of the season.
“I hit pretty much rock bottom. I almost quit,” Henderson said. Coming off an All-American season, in which she led the NCAA Championship Tournament after day one, made the sudden drop all the more crushing. “It had an effect on everything else in my life,” Henderson said. But as they have done time and again, these two lady golfers persevered.
Together, the two pillars of the golf program have a combined five first-team All Big West Selections, multiple Big West Golfer of the Month awards and one All-American honorable mention, so when the two seniors started to find their swing in the beginning of the year nobody, was surprised. Assistant Athletic Director Stacy Shackelford said, “These two girls are the cornerstones of the program. They have helped it grow into what it is today. We’re very lucky to have them.”
Being the backbone of a program, especially one that has grown to receive national recognition, is not always easy either. “Learning how to balance school, golf and our personal lives has been pretty tough,” Lorenzana said. But, if you think a nine-month school golf season, a summer season of tournaments and a full school load would make these two ladies all work and no play, you’d be sadly mistaken. Of course, as with the other challenges, the girls have the balancing act down pat now, too. “We love dancing, and chocolate!” Lorenzana and Henderson said simultaneously.
They always bring an element of fun to the course as well. Lorenzana writes her idols’ names, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, on her gloves and both girls are attached to their iPods before a round. Although they will not compete against the men on the Professional Golf Association anytime soon, a friendly wager is never out of the question. “I love going home and playing the guys,” Henderson said. “They get so competitive, it’s funny.”
Through all the challenges, setbacks, victories and awards, perhaps the thing that will stick with them the longest is the friendships they have made on the UC Irvine women’s golf team. Though golf is an individual sport, there might not be a more close-knit team: many of the girls live together, you will hardly ever find one team member without another, they eat together regularly and Lorenzana and Henderson have been taking the same classes for the last two years.
The memories have been great, but the beginning of the end is here now. Henderson and Lorenzana’s final Big West Championship begins on Monday, April 21 in Rancho Santa Margarita and they will look to extend their seasons from there. Is this the perfect ending to a season? It is not hoisting the individual championship above their heads, although they probably would not mind that. Instead, it is a dream that they have shared ever since the end of their freshmen seasons.
“We want to make it to Nationals so we can do the senior skit and make fun of our coach,” the girls excitedly explained. “It’s a tradition that on the last night of the tournament the seniors get to do a skit and make fun of their coach. We’ve wanted to do that for so long.”
This is just one final dream to catch as kids before they move on to the professional ranks and begin chasing down dreams all over the world.