Julia Lopez Ramirez didn’t answer.
When the Mississippi State freshman golfer received a recent phone call, she didn’t pick up — Lopez Ramirez didn’t recognize the number.
Then MSU head coach Charlie Ewing instructed his young star to call back. A berth in an important international tournament was hers — if she picked up the phone.
“Oh, shoot, I have to answer this,” Lopez Ramirez realized.
She called back, and the rest was history. The Spaniard had earned a spot in the 2022 Arnold Palmer Cup, which pits an American team against an international squad.
“I was so excited when they told me I’m in the Palmer Cup,” Lopez Ramirez said. “Wow, that’s literally a dream.”
Her dream began Friday morning in the first round of the annual event, hosted this year in Geneva, Switzerland. She is part of the international team, which features 12 men and 12 women, as does the U.S. team.
Lopez Ramirez said she’s excited to play with men — who she said “play a different golf” — as well as with fellow Spaniard Carolina Chacarra, who just finished her freshman season at Wake Forest.
“I’m so excited for that because I feel like there is a pretty good field,” Lopez Ramirez said.
A standout freshman year
Lopez Ramirez enters the Palmer Cup after one of the best freshman seasons in the history of the Bulldogs’ program.
The Málaga, Spain, native came to Starkville on the advice of Madrid product Clara Moyano, who played her senior season with the Bulldogs in 2020-21. Moyano helped teach Lopez Ramirez about college and told her MSU could help improve her English.
Lopez Ramirez chose Mississippi State and hasn’t looked back.
“I’m so happy for this decision,” she said.
After landing the talented golfer, so is Mississippi State.
Lopez Ramirez led or tied for first on the team in nine of MSU’s 12 tournaments. She won the individual title in back-to-back events, the Paradise and Westbrook Invitationals, in February.
Her success started well before that, though — not that Lopez Ramirez knew right away.
The freshman had just finished play at the Sam Golden Invitational in September in Texas — MSU’s first tournament — in a tie for first place.
Told she had won, Lopez Ramirez was nonplussed.
“We’re a team,” she said. “I can’t win this tournament. This is like a team thing.”
That was when she found out college golf had an individual component — not just a team aspect.
“I was so surprised but it was fun because I literally won my first tournament,” she said. “It was so crazy.”
Starting in mid-October, Lopez Ramirez went on a run. She finished in the top 10 in seven straight tournaments, including her back-to-back victories. Lopez Ramirez shot a Mississippi State record 16 under par to win the Paradise and then helped MSU win the Westbrook, hosted by the University of Wisconsin in Peoria, Arizona.
And perhaps an unusual tradition helped kickstart the spurt.
Lopez Ramirez once took notice of a football sitting in Ewing’s office and told her coach she’d never thrown one. Ewing taught her as well as fellow Spanish freshman Ana Pina Ortega, and since then, they toss the pigskin in the parking lot before every round of an event.
“If we don’t do that, I’m not going to play good in a tournament, so we have to do it,” Lopez Ramirez said.
Aggressive play works out — usually
Of course, it’s not just her quarterback skills that make Lopez Ramirez one of the Southeastern Conference’s best golfers.
The SEC freshman of the year and first-team all-SEC member came to Starkville with elite club head speed. And it’s only gotten better.
Lopez Ramirez said she was contacting the ball at 110 miles per hour when she started at Mississippi State. Since then, that mark has increased to a whopping 115 — and counting.
“I try to get more, but I also have to be careful, because more speed means when I miss the ball, it’s far right or far left,” Lopez Ramirez said.
To put those numbers in context, the average club head speed on the men’s PGA tour in 2021 was 114.2 mph. For the LPGA tour, it was 94 mph.
“I feel like I’ve kind of had that speed since I was young, but I’ve practiced it, too,” Lopez Ramirez said.
That natural strength allows Lopez Ramirez to play a more aggressive brand of golf, typically to her benefit. At The Gator Invitational in March in Florida, her strategy of going for “every single pin” paid off big time.
Lopez Ramirez was off in the trees but saw no reason she couldn’t reach the green. A low draw with her 3-iron skidded across the grass and onto the green. She sank a putt for an unlikely birdie.
“I don’t know how, but that worked out,” she said.
It doesn’t always. At another tournament, an aggressive second shot on a Par 5 landed in the water. Lopez Ramirez ended up with a bogey but no regrets.
She’d do it all over if she had the chance.
“If I had a second shot, I would hit it again to the green,” she said. “It wasn’t a bad thought; it was just a bad swing.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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