Teeing Off with Eli Fuentez

He began playing the game when he was old enough to swing a club. Where he grew up, there was no country club, driving range or putting green, nor did he have his own clubs. What he did have was a set of hand-me-downs his father gave to him. His favorite club was an old 7-iron he found that had black masking tape wrapped around the top as a makeshift grip. When he wanted to practice, he and his father would drive out to his grandmother’s cow pasture with those old clubs and work on certain skills and techniques. To Eli Fuentez, this cow pasture was his playing field.

Fuentez, an admissions counselor for Ouachita, was recently selected as head coach for women’s golf, which will begin next fall.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity,” Fuentez said. “It’s truly a ‘God thing’ that I came here this year and it worked out this way.”

Fuentez was initially asked by Athletic Director David Sharp to help with men’s golf next season. When it was announced that women’s golf was being added, Sharp knew Fuentez was right for the job.

Having this job on top of being a full-time admissions counselor means a lot of added responsibility for Fuentez. He will be going to the course a few times a week to practice with the girls, along with recruiting and traveling to tournaments.

“Administration has been really awesome in working with me and allowing me to give up time with admissions to take on golf responsibilities,” Fuentez said.

The program itself, although in its beginning stages, is developing quite well, according to Fuentez.

The program will start in August, with the first tournament being around September or October. Ouachita will be the 10th team to join the women’s golf program in the Gulf South Conference. The team will join Harding, Southern Arkansas University, Christian Brothers University and long-time rivals Henderson State in the conference, to name a few.

The girls who join the team will not only be living their dreams of playing collegiate golf, but will receive other benefits as well. According to Fuentez, each will receive a scholarship ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on level of skill. They will also receive free membership to the country club at DeGray Lake Resort, discounted equipment, uniforms, OBU golf balls and the chance to play on some “really nice courses.”

As for recruiting, Fuentez is mainly seeing interest from the Little Rock and Dallas areas. He says he has four girls interested on campus, along with 10-12 girls who have shown interest in coming to Ouachita to join the program.

“Most of the girls I’ve talked to are girls who may have never heard of Ouachita if it wasn’t for the newly added golf program,” he said.

If all goes as expected, a final team of 10-12 total girls will be the result, with only five being able to play in each tournament.

Although it may seem that recruiting would go hand-in-hand with his admissions counseling job, this is not the case. According to NCAA rules, Fuentez cannot technically be the girls’ admissions counselor. These rules limit athletic coaches to only one phone call per week to potential players, and also limit the amount of personal contact to one on-campus visit and three off-campus visits.

Even though the program will be in its first year, Fuentez is optimistic about competing this season. He says girls interested in collegiate golf are definitely serious about the sport and most have significant experience with the game.

“It’s really a win/win situation,” he said. “Since it is a new program, expectations aren’t exceptionally high. But we’ve got some girls that could be really good and I think we’re well up in the competition.”

One of Fuentez’ main goals for the season is to focus on building a strong team. He plans on holding cookouts and gatherings to bring the girls closer together. He mentioned the possibility of including the men’s team in these events to work on unifying the program as a whole.

He also says he would like to “go shoot somewhere” before the season to discover the true leaders within the group.

Most importantly, he says he wants to make sure the girls enjoy themselves while also receiving the benefit of a solid education at Ouachita.

“Ultimately, I just want them to enjoy it,” he said. “I don’t want them so tied down to golf that they become stressed. I want them to get a solid golf experience while also keeping school their top priority.”

From the little boy swinging that old 7-iron on the cow pasture to the first coach of a collegiate golf team, Fuentez has risen to the occasion and, come August, will work to establish Ouachita women’s golf as a sound collegiate program.

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