In his debut season at Wisconsin, UW women’s golf coach Todd Oehrlein will lead his team to Columbus, Ohio this weekend to battle for the Big Ten championship.

Oehrlein, a Sun Prairie native, has already built an impressive postseason resume. Before coming to Wisconsin, Oehrlein served as head coach at UW-Eau Claire, where he led the Blugolds to the NCAA Division III tournament for six consecutive years and won a national title in 2001.

Oehrlein, named the 2001 National Coach of the Year by the Golf Coaches’ Association and Golfweek Magazine, attributes his success at Eau Claire to his players, saying that he was “fortunate to attract quality young people … They know how to win.”

In the final tournament before the Big Ten championships, Oehrlein and the Badgers fought through heavy winds to finish 10th at the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.

Oehrlein noted that the team did not play well at Indiana two weeks ago, where the team finished 12th, “because we made too many mistakes.” Since then, however, Oehrlein’s squad has had two weeks of solid practice to prepare for the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

Oehrlein has great faith in the UW women’s golf program, which will look to build on its second-place conference finish in 2003. Oehrlein and the Badgers are striving to join Ohio State and Michigan State, the two Big Ten teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the field with dominant play. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title last year and enter this season’s tournament as the favorite.

Oehrlein will also look to lead the Badgers to NCAA tournament qualification after UW finished 24th in the NCAA last season.

Hoping to revamp the UW women’s golf program, Oehrlein has focused his efforts on recruiting. He plans to “expand [Wisconsin’s] recruiting base,” particularly with in-state high school athletes. The Sun Prairie native is searching for “consistent” high school talent, noting that consistent players are the best college golfers.

“[Recruiting] is the life load of any college program at any level,” Oehrlein said.

Oehrlein’s immediate goal is to “continue to raise the level of expectations” in women’s golf at UW. His main expectations are for the student athlete.

He said that the women on the team have to possess an “understanding acceptance for their actions,” since they “represent the image of the university and the golf program.”

By focusing on the student athlete, Oehrlein hopes to “build a program to the level they (the student athlete) will want to stay here.”

Oehrlein is excited about making the transition from a Division III school to the Division I level, noting that the Big Ten provides a “first-class challenge.”

Coach Oehrlein’s love of golf began when his father exposed him to the game when he was only three years old. Growing up, he admired the play of Tom Watson, but said that his favorite golfer to watch today is Tiger Woods. Oehrlein said that by watching Woods, a golf fan is “watching history.”

A UW-Eau Claire graduate, Oehrlein was a four-year letter winner in basketball and a lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology. Oehrlein started his coaching career in 1995 and became the head coach two seasons later.