The University of Arkansas Athletic Department is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, with a series of stories highlighting several of our student-athletes with Hispanic and Latino American backgrounds. We will be publishing a series of stories each Wednesday during the month-long event letting fans get to know selected student-athletes and how their heritage impacts them. Check back each week for new stories.
University of Arkansas women’s golfer Regina Plasencia had a unique opportunity when she was offered a scholarship with the Razorbacks. A Guadalajara, Mexico, native Plasencia had the chance to join countrywoman Gabriela Lopez as the first Mexican nationals on the team.
An accomplished amateur, Plasencia attended Instituto Alpes San Javier, and has competed at all levels. She took part in the LPGA MasterCard Classic in 2009 and the LPGA Corona Morelia in 2009 and 2010. Plasencia played in the AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic, the Optimist International Tournament of Champions and the Callaway Junior World Championships in 2010.
It was through her international competition that she first met Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor and learned about the Razorbacks.
“During my last two years of high school I started to play a lot of tournaments in the U.S., mostly during the summer,” Plasencia said. “College coaches could see me play and find my game capable enough to compete for their team. Apparently, my game caught Shauna’s eye, and via email we maintained communication for almost a year. During my official visit to the University of Arkansas I felt like this was the right place I needed to be to succeed as a student and as a golfer. I was looking for a safe place to live, a great school to study and a great golf program to improve my game, and all of those I found here in Fayetteville.
“I chose to come to the U..S to study and play college golf for two reasons,” Plasencia continued. “First, to improve my English and second, to better my golf game. I knew that coming here was going to help me prepare and achieve what I want for myself as a student, a person and a golfer. It is an opportunity that I didn’t have at home.”
Home can seem like a long ways away to international student-athletes, but Plasencia threw herself into becoming a Razorback. She tackled her English language classes as fiercely as she competed on the golf course, earning a spot in Arkansas’ first tournament of the season, the Old Waverly Invitational.
The true freshman posted a 225 including a four of four-under 68 on the second day of play tying for 18th overall in her first collegiate event. Her ability to jump in and acclimate to her new surroundings was critical for Plasencia’s adjustment.
“It might be a little more difficult for international students to live in a new country,” she noted. “The culture, the people, even the food is different. Everything that you are used to is not there anymore, including your family. Nevertheless, the University of Arkansas does a great job supporting international student-athletes by helping to make that transition as smooth as possible. There are several programs that introduce student-athletes to each other. These encourage us to meet new people and make friends.”
Plasencia’s golf game has continued to thrive as well. She was selected as a member of Team Mexico taking part in Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey in late September. A couple of good rounds of 72-70 on the second and third days of play helped her move up the leaderboard helping Mexico to an 18th place finish.
Plasencia has shown that she has the ability to balance academics, golf and being an international student-athlete but admits having Lopez here makes things just a bit more like home.
“Yes, It does help a lot (having Gaby here,” she said. “I feel like when I am with her, there is a part of Mexico also with me. We are teammates who form a family. We support and help each other in any situation, and encourage one another to be better persons, students, and athletes.”
As for the future, Plasencia has lofty goals as a student and on the golf course.
“One of my role models in golf is Lorena Ochoa,” Plasencia said. “She accomplished great things on the LPGA, during a small period of time. She became the best woman’s golfer in the world and she did it being not only kind and down to earth, but also with perseverance and belief. She motivates me to work hard to accomplish my goals. Most of all, she gives me hope that there is a possibility to be number one in the world. If she did it, why can’t I?”
Plasencia and the Razorbacks return to the links this week at the Tar Heel Invitational in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the second of three fall events.