By PATRICK EVERSON
Golfing Las Vegas
It's been said that good things come in threes. For UNLV women's golfer Therese Koelbaek, it's been more like good things come in thirds.
As in third-place finishes in three straight tournaments, part of a sterling fall season for the Rebels' senior leader.
In the mid-September season opener, the Dick McGuire Invitational at Albuquerque, N.M., Koelbaek led after two rounds and ultimately finished third at 4-under 215. That marked the fourth-best par finish in team history.
A week and a half later, at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in the mountains of Vail, Colo., it was a near repeat performance. Koelbaek shared the lead after the first round, was alone in first after the second round and ended up third with a 2-under 214 total.
At the Dale McNamara Invitational in Tulsa, Okla., in mid-October, Koelbaek was tied for third after the first round, dropped to fifth after two rounds, then reclaimed those two spots to take third with a 2-over 218 total.
"The first two tournaments, I didn't play as great in the last round, so I wasn't really upset about taking third," said Koelbaek, who hails from Denmark. "The second tournament had a really strong field, and I guess I was not as well prepared mentally. I knew I had the game to win, but I didn't believe it. So that was disappointing.
"But I've been close a couple times, and I think if I keep up my game and just be patient, I can win. That's definitely a goal for spring."
Koelbaek could probably use the break between now and the Rebels' next event, the BruinWave Invitational in Valencia, Calif., at the end of February. UNLV had four fall tournaments, and Koelbaek also sandwiched in a trip to Argentina for the world amateur championships, after her third-place effort in Tulsa.
Despite being weary from the globetrotting, she took 16th in Argentina, then shook off the jet lag to tie for sixth in the fall finale, UNLV's own Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown from Oct. 25-27 at Boulder Creek Golf Club.
Koelbaek fired a 5-under 67 in the second round at Boulder Creek, and her finish capped an October whirlwind of golf.
"By the end, playing in our home tournament, I was physically drained from playing so much golf," she said. "Everything happened so quickly. Fifteen rounds of golf, in 18 days, on two continents.
"It was at least three hours of practice a day, then playing 18 holes. That's a lot of golf."
Her efforts certainly showed she could handle the load, though, and UNLV coach Amy Bush was particularly pleased.
"Therese is such an excellent representative of UNLV golf, and golf in general," said Bush, in her first season as head coach after being promoted when Missy Ringler resigned earlier this year following a successful eight-year run.
"Therese is a lot of fun to watch on the golf course and just really loves the game. She has a lot of respect for the game. That's what makes her a really great player."
Bush said it was clear Koelbaek put in a lot of work over the summer, which indeed Koelbaek did, mostly under her personal coach while spending a few weeks back home in Denmark.
"I knew she was going to come in and play some outstanding golf," Bush said.
And with the way Koelbaek competed, Bush was a bit surprised that a first-place effort didn't come to fruition.
"I was surprised, but I think it was such a great learning experience that she's really going to be ready in the spring," Bush said.
Bush also noted that it's not only Koelbaek's scoring contributions, but also her team-first attitude that has bolstered the Rebels, making it a smooth transition from Ringler to Bush.
"She's such a great motivator," the coach said. "I've leaned a lot on Therese and her experience. I really allow her to say a lot of motivational things. We've adapted our goals based in part on Therese's suggestions."
Likewise, Koelbaek had high praise for Bush.
"It's been going very smoothly," she said. "We knew her already, so it wasn't that big of a change. Of course, she has some of her own initiatives, but it's really not that big of a difference. I think Amy is doing a great job with the team so far. She's very willing to listen to us."
Koelbaek's goal in her final year of college is to help UNLV get back to the NCAA Championships, a tournament the Rebels haven't qualified for since 2008.
"It's been two kind of disappointing years, not making it," she said. "I was there my freshman year, and it was just a great tournament. So I hope we can pull it off this year."
And after she winds down the spring season -- which includes a home tourney March 7-9 at Boulder Creek -- she intends to stay in the United States and begin pursuit of a professional career.
"I think I'm going to stay here and give it a try, play the summer here as an amateur and try to qualify for the (Duramed) Futures Tour and the LPGA Tour. That's the plan," she said.
And she's eager to get started.
"I'm really excited. It's going to be fun," Koelbaek said. "Of course, it's kind of scary -- it's completely new, and I have to be completely on my own for the first time. But I love the sport so much that I'm sure I'll like it."