After a sort of spectacular freshman year at Henderson State University, Maumelle’s Taylor Loeb is aiming even higher — starting with the Arkansas Women’s Golf Association State Stroke Play and Match Play Championships this week.
The AWGA is set for Maumelle’s Country Club of Arkansas this Thursday and will conclude on Sunday.
At Henderson, Loeb, 19, was named Freshman of the Year for the Great American Conference, notching eight top-25 finishes. She tied for fifth in the conference tournament and made the All-Tournament team, putting up a season stroke average of 79.5 in 26 rounds played. She was the only freshman in the lineup for the Reddies as they finished ninth in their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Women’s Golf National Championship in Findlay, Ohio, after taking third in the NCAA Super Region 3 Championship in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“Ever since we went to regionals, I’ve been upset with myself and my game, and then nationals came, and that’s a round I never want to speak of,” she said. “But after that, I started working on my short game, and I’ve got a new coach (Justin Hill at Justin Hill Golf Academy at Greystone Country Club). I can tell he’s going to work wonders on my game.”
This summer, Loeb won the first flight in the Women’s Southern Golf Association Amateur at Grenada Golf Course in Hot Springs Village and finished fourth in the Arkansas State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Championship at Hot Springs Country Club’s Arlington Course, seven strokes behind her HSU teammate, Sarah Wright.
At press time, Loeb stood fourth in the ASGA’s Women’s Player of the Year standings.
She said she planned this summer to focus on Arkansas competition. Next summer, she intends to try to qualify for USGA events.
Loeb, a daughter of Brian and Jennifer Loeb, said she started playing competitively when she was 7.
“My dad took me to The First Tee, and that was the place where I spent most of my time,” she said. “I played a lot of tournaments out there. It’s where i grew up. It taught me a lot of values that I could use on and off the course.”
Growing up, she also participated in gymnastics, cheer and dance. But she always kept golf as her main focus.
“I knew I could do a lot with it, that I could go a lot further with it than the other things,” she said.
She played high school golf for Mount St. Mary, where she became the first Belle to win a state championship in 40 years when she won the Class 7A state title in 2013. She earned all-conference and all-state honors four years.
She was the Arkansas Women’s Golf Association Junior Player of the Year in 2014 and was selected to the AWGA Tri-States team and the ASGA’s Southern Cup team.
According to Henderson’s press release when she signed with the Reddies, Loeb had won more than 48 tournaments and 35 more top-three finishes.
She said Reddie coach Forrest Schultz’s long-time interest in her was a factor in choosing Henderson.
“I went on a lot of visits, but one reason why I wanted to go there was I could tell he really cares for me,” Loeb said. “That was a big thing for me. I want my coaches to be caring and to look out for me.”
Henderson also boasts the Ken Duke Golf Center, a state-of-the-art facility named for the Reddie alum who has had a long career on the PGA Tour. It was dedicated last fall.
“Henderson has been a really good experience,” Loeb said. “I’m so glad I chose it. The coaches are good; I’ve met so many great people. Thanks to Ken Duke for that facility — just being in it is amazing. The golf team is basically my second family.”
She said her freshman year, when she put together a 3.47 GPA as she pursues a degree in sports management, included several pleasant surprises on the course.
“Making it to the national championship was the best feeling ever, and I know we can do it again,” she said. “Winning Freshman of the Year for the GAC was really unexpected. I was excited, and just the feeling of getting another award makes me feel special and boosted my confidence quite a bit.”
And next year also looks good.
“No one graduated,” Loeb said. “Everyone outside the top five is really working hard. It’s going to be really competitive to qualify, which I like.”
Hill is working with her on several areas — sports psychology, putting lab, swing analysis.
“She’s very athletic,” he said. “We want to put her in better position to give her more chances to succeed.”
Loeb doesn’t have to look far for competition to push her. Her younger sister, Lauren, 16, is an up-and-comer in the junior game. At press time, she was ranked 20th on the ASGA’s Junior Girls Player of the Year standings.
“We play a lot, and we really motivate each other,” Loeb said. “I always try to encourage her. She’s beaten me maybe once or twice, but her short game is phenomenal. I wish I had it.”