By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Like other NCAA Division III athletes throughout the nation, Taneesh Sra (Sr., Fremont, CA/Mission San Jose HS) at Willamette University has to balance the time demands of attending classes, completing homework, practicing and competing on the Bearcat women's golf team, working as an admission intern and having a social life. Sra, a senior majoring in economics who is in her first year of master's work in Willamette's 3/2 MBA program, just balances everything better than most athletes.
"She is very well organized and has her priorities well planned out," Willamette Head Golf Coach Patrick Daugherty said. "With a regimented schedule, she makes sure that she's always got practice time. She's committed to practicing five days a week … three with the team and two on her own … a schedule that works for her."
Sra said that she likes Willamette's rigorous academic standards, but is glad that she can easily be friends with her fellow students.
"Academics here are very demanding … but the students aren't competing with each other," Sra noted. "Its more of a supportive and encouraging community."
As Sra decided where to attend college, she wasn't certain about her future major.
"Coming into Willamette, I didn't know for sure if I wanted to do economics. I've had a couple of internships with Oracle and that encouraged me to continue with the major."
She hopes to focus primarily on financial and data analysis such as actuarial science and statistics-based economics work, but she was happy when she didn't have to decide about area of emphasis right away.
"What's nice about the 3/2 program, is that you don't have to pick an emphasis a you're going in," Sra said. "The put you in a variety of classes so that you can choose where you want to be."
When she's not in the classroom or studying, there's a good chance that you will find her on a golf course practicing alone or with the Willamette men's and women's golf teams.
"She has great hand-eye coordination," Daugherty said. "She has a natural ability to hit a golf ball. Her swing mechanics are really, really good. She can flat out hit the ball. She can hit it a long way. And there is never a wasted practice. She's always getting better. She puts in the time."
"I think I've really learned through the golf program at Willamette what I need to work on," Sra said regarding advice received from Daugherty. "Most of my drives go straight. My driver is my favorite club. My chips and putts are pretty good. It's one of the stronger parts of my game."
As a senior, she's a leader for the Bearcats.
"She's in a big leadership role by example," Daugherty noted. "Overall, she is that person who sets where the line is for how we practice, how you manage your time. But you also have to have fun doing it and she makes it enjoyable. She's really competitive during tournaments. She's not competitive in practice."
"I think I'm the funniest person on the team," Sra said. "It's important to build your relationships. It's okay to have a little fun at practice."
Despite being serious during tournaments, Sra has had fun as a member of the Willamette golf team.
"My freshman year was definitely exciting," she said. "I loved that we go to travel a lot. We went to Hawaii over Spring Break … that was my highlight.
"I also like that the men's team and the women's team are very close. We support each other. If we finish first, we wait for the other team to finish at the 18th hole. Not all of the other teams are as close."
Sra was named First Team All-Northwest Conference in 2014-15 after earning Second Team All-NWC honors in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
When a tournament is over, Sra returns to her jovial and funny self.
"There are a lot of inside jokes," Daugherty said. "It's just a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. We're a close-knit group. She'll make a joke and its super funny because it's just out of the blue. Every once in a while she'll bring up 'Hey coach, do you remember when we were lost for three hours (on a previous trip). It's pretty funny.' "
Sra has been playing golf for much of her life.
"When I was about 10 years old … by that time my parents had put me in about every sport," Sra commented. "It (golf) was one of those sports where I felt like I could succeed."
When she was 12 years old, she joined her middle school team. Later, she played on the girls' golf team at Mission San Jose High School in her hometown of Fremont, Calif.
"It was really nice," Sra recalled. "When I started on my high school team, we were in last place in the league. By my senior year, we went to State."
Sra also competed in outside tournaments while attending high school. She developed her swing and was ready to adapt to college golf when she graduated.
"I met Taneesh for the first time at Creekside Golf Course. Our team had a practice out there when she visited Willamette … and it was raining. She was very happy and pretty easy-going. Meeting the players who were still going to be here … that really helped.
"I watched her swing video," Daugherty said. Once she arrived at Willamette, Daugherty said that "she had some immediate success as a freshman. I think that's pretty neat. We (Daugherty and former Head Coach Noah Horstman) both agreed she would be a good fit for our team."
Just as Sra has been great at managing her many obligations, she's also been a great addition to the Bearcats.
"Our team has always bonded really well," Daugherty said. "They enjoy each other's company and want each other to do really well. I don't ever see Taneesh stressed. She is so coachable."