Small in Stature, Arguelles Has Big Dreams May 30, 2018 | Shoal Creek, Ala. By Julie Williams

Evelyn Arguelles is the lone player in the U.S. Women's Open field currently competing at the NCAA Division II level. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

U.S. Women's Open Home    Tickets    Tee Times

Evelyn Arguelles was in desperate need of a freshman 15 when she arrived at Dallas Baptist University in the winter of 2017. Having transferred from Baylor to DBU, an NCAA Division II school, Arguelles had to sit out a semester before the NCAA cleared her to compete. It was a good time to get in the weight room.

“She wasn’t 100 pounds,” DBU head coach Kenny Trapp said. Golf courses overpowered the petite player from Oaxtepec, Mexico. With the added strength, Arguelles, who stands just over 5 feet tall, added 20 yards off the tee.

The 20-year-old will need every bit of that competing on a soaked Shoal Creek for the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open Championship. It’s her first time playing against professionals. In 13 years coaching golf at DBU, it’s also the first time Trapp has had a player qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, or any other major championship for that matter. He’s on-site this week to caddie.

Arguelles (pronounced are-way-les) represents the beauty of this event. Here’s a player who has only ever known this stage through watching her countrywomen on TV. Now she can play among them and figure out for herself what it will take to one day compete professionally.

As many girls her age, Arguelles idolized former LPGA Tour star and Mexican golf icon Lorena Ochoa, a two-time major champion. Given the opportunity to speak to Ochoa at an LPGA event in Mexico, a 7-year-old Arguelles completely froze. All the kind words she had planned to tell Ochoa simply vanished, and instead she only thrust her hat forward in stunned silence to get a signature.

“She’s probably the reason why at such a young age I knew I wanted to play golf professionally,” said Arguelles.

Since Ochoa, Gaby Lopez and Alejandra Llaneza have also charted paths from Mexico to the LPGA. Maria Fassi, No. 15 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, is also playing in the Women’s Open this week.

“We grew up together, basically,” Arguelles said of this trio. Even though she was never a member of the Mexican national team, Arguelles was invited to travel with the squad to a handful of tournaments.

Arguelles has tried to qualify for the Women’s Open twice before, but didn’t get particularly close either time. This year, the only qualifier that fit into the postseason schedule was May 2 at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J. Arguelles set off alone to try to punch her ticket to Shoal Creek. Feeling overwhelmed when she found out that after 36 holes she’d have to enter a playoff, Arguelles called Trapp.

“I’m kind of nervous,” she told her coach. Trapp reassured her that she belonged on that stage, and Arguelles advanced after the first hole. 

This is the way Arguelles and Trapp’s relationship works, at least after an initial adjustment period. Coach and player didn’t see eye to eye when Arguelles first arrived on campus.

“We butted heads when she first got here,” Trapp said. “We had a sit-down, and since then she’s been a different person. I learned a lot, too.”

Arguelles, who won twice this season, is the only current Division II player in this week’s Women’s Open. She is one of 29 amateurs in the field. As a junior golfer, competing both in her native Mexico and in the southern part of the United States, Arguelles was always set on playing Division I. After one semester at Baylor, though, she wasn’t happy. 

Golf is the family game for Arguelles, her parents and her four brothers. Her two older brothers, Julio and Joaquin, competed for Arkansas Tech and DBU, respectively. Joaquin is about to enter his senior season and also plays for Trapp. It got Evelyn thinking about what might be waiting for her in Dallas – a bustling world totally different from the small community of Oaxtepec, where Arguelles simply hopped on her golf cart to go practice within her gated community.

“I knew how Coach was with my brother, and I knew that he was a good coach,” she said. “I just saw myself growing there, and of course it was a tough decision going from D1 to D2, because I didn’t know how good the players were in D2.”

The gap is closing between divisions, and Trapp has seen it firsthand. Arguelles is the poster child for that. Any player with designs on playing college golf has so much tournament experience under their belt that few are starstruck when they transition from being a junior to a collegian. The scores have gone down as a result. 

“At the top, there’s not much difference,” Trapp said in comparing the two divisions. “These girls know how to play.”

In the past two years, Trapp has coached DBU’s women to a runner-up (by one stroke) and a third-place finish at the national championship.

DBU is a Christian university with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students. Each year, the sports teams operate under a theme. Arguelles perfectly embodies the current slogan: One heart, one way. What she lacks in size, she makes up for in sheer toughness. 

“She’s a fighter, and I mean like big-time fighter,” Trapp said. “Obviously growing up smaller, I think that has given her that edge.”

Julie Williams is a Florida-based freelance writer.

More from the 73rd U.S. Women's Open