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Gators junior Sarah Schober has five top-25 finishes heading into NCAA Championship.

Monday May 19, 2014Gators at NCAA Championship, Teammates Schober and Ulu Back Where They Started

Gators junior Sarah Schober has five top-25 finishes heading into NCAA Championship.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One is from a small town in southern Austria known for its hilly countryside and vineyards. The other is from one of the world’s largest and most frenzied cities.

Two years ago they found themselves as teammates and roommates at a small junior college in Oklahoma. They are together once again at UF, junior Sarah Schober by way of Leibnitz, Austria, and senior Elcin Ulu via Istanbul, Turkey.

Both used Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla., as their entry point into the U.S., and when the Gators women’s golf team tees off Tuesday morning at the NCAA Championship, Schober and Ulu will be together as teammates in the Sooner State one final time.

They were just there two weeks ago as Schober’s fifth-place finish (1 over par) helped Florida advance to the national tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The Gators won a one-hole playoff against host Oklahoma State to earn the final spot in the Central Region.

Elcin Ulu

Their golf games are as different as their backgrounds.

“She hits it very long. I’m totally opposite,’’ Ulu said. “She is kind of like my assistant coach. She is like, ‘Elcin, just grip it and rip it.’ That’s the only thing she tells me. I’m like, ‘Sarah, it’s not that easy. You’ve already got that.’ I just can’t do that. I hit it very short.”

The return trip to Oklahoma has provided the two with plenty to chat about heading into the tournament. Ulu (photo, left), a year ahead of Schober in school, recalls first discovering they were going to attend the same small American junior college when the two met at an amateur tournament in Scotland.

Ulu made the move first, spending a year after high school trying to learn English and improve her SAT scores. Meanwhile, Schober studied English growing up and arrived the next year with some understanding of what to expect.

Still, when Schober left home to enroll at Redlands it was her first time in the U.S.

“It’s a really little town, a really little college,’’ Schober said. “It was an exciting time.”

They shared a house near campus and helped Redlands finish second at the NJCAA Championship in 2012. Schober won the individual title and Ulu finished second.

Golf was the common connection between the two. Everything else took time.

“When she came, we didn’t get along at all,’’ Ulu said. “Suddenly, we became best friends. When I had hard times, she was the only one there for me, and I was the same for her.”

While still an assistant at UF, second-year Gators head coach Emily Glaser attended the NJCAA Championship to watch Ulu two years ago. Glaser couldn’t help but notice the powerful swing of Schober.

Ready to move on and test her skill on a bigger stage, Ulu transferred to Florida in the summer of 2012. She stayed in contact with Schober, finishing her final season at Redlands.

Schober considered offers from South Carolina, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Kentucky before signing with the Gators.

Florida got a bomber off the tee.

“Sarah is a very dynamic player,’’ Glaser said. “She hits it a long way. There’s far, and then there’s really far.

“She hits it really far. She can do things with a golf ball that not a lot of females can do, and on certain golf courses, that can really be an advantage for her.”

Schober shot 71-72-74—217 for Florida’s top score at the NCAA Central Regional. Her score was 11 shots better than anyone else on the team. Ulu (78-75-80-233) did not have her best performance, finishing tied for 66th.

The NCAA Championship this week is at the 6,194-yard Tulsa Country Club, which is about a two-hour drive from where Schober and Ulu first met.

Both know what to expect: difficult competition and strong wind. They got used to Oklahoma’s famous gusts this time of year during their time at Redlands.

“A lot of punch shots,’’ Schober said. “You’ve got to keep the ball low. The wind is hard.”

You can bet they will take different approaches as the play the course. That’s the way their games are built. Schober relies on length off the tee, Ulu more her touch around the green.

But because they landed at the same spot in America and reunited at UF, the two have a special bond far beyond the golf course.

“I really hated it. The first 30 days I cried every day,’’ Ulu said of her time at Redlands. “I wanted to go back. I pushed myself. It got better. I made good friends. Sarah is one of them.”

Ulu's presence helped make Schober's transition smoother, even if they did get off to a rocky start.

"If I didn’t like it, my parents always gave me the chance to go back,’’ she said. “Before that, I never wanted to go to the States because I love my family and my country. It was a big step for me, but I’m glad I did it.”


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