From more than 8,600 miles away, one student-athlete decided to enroll at the UofA without even one campus visit.
Sophomore golfer Cara Gorlei is from Cape Town, South Africa, and attended Milnerton High School before choosing to attend the UofA.
The 5-foot-7-inch student-athlete is the fourth South African to emerge on the team’s roster and was the No. 1 ranked junior golfer in South Africa in 2013.
Arkansas’ head women’s golf coach Shauna Estes-Taylor traveled all the way to South Africa just to watch Gorlei play.
“A former player of mine, Kelli Shean, who is from Cape Town, South Africa, sent me an email about Cara (to tell me) that she was a good, up-and-coming junior golfer and someone that I should look into potentially becoming a Razorback,” Estes-Taylor said.
Estes-Taylor said she knew Gorlei would be a good fit for the team.
“In coaching, when you’re evaluating, especially in golf, you can watch (someone) hit a few shots and know if they kind of have the things that you need to help grow your game and contribute to your program,” Estes-Taylor said.
Gorlei said her coach was the main reason she chose to attend the UofA.
“She came to South Africa to watch me play and I had so much trust in her and faith in her,” she said.
Gorlei had thoughts about attending other universities, but the Arkansas coaches showed too much appreciation for her to turn them down.
“They (other schools) didn’t show as much interest in me as Shauna (Estes-Taylor) and (assistant coach) Mike (Adams) did,” Gorlei said.
The interest between Estes-Taylor and Gorlei was mutual.
“It’s about a connection sometimes in recruiting and immediately it felt like we connected,” Estes-Taylor said.
Gorlei said Estes-Taylor has been a big inspiration to her.
“She keeps motivating me and always uplifts me when I'm down, and I know I can always go to her for anything,” Gorlei said. “She’s been a great help.”
Gorlei said her teammates helped make the transition easier when she was a freshman.
“It was fine because my teammates are so helpful and everyone’s so nice and always willing to help you out when you're stuck,” Gorlei said.
Her teammates said they enjoy having her around.
“She’s one of my closest friends on the team,” senior golfer Summar Roachell said.
As Gorlei arrived at the UofA, Roachell had a feeling they’d be close.
“I knew right off the bat we’d be good friends,” Roachell said. “She’s not shy; she’s super outgoing.”
The difference from Cape Town to Fayetteville was exceedingly different for Gorlei, but she said she saw it coming.
“It’s kind of like a complete switch,” Gorlei said. “The people are different, the food’s different, the culture’s different, so I’m just kind of adjusting to it all, but I expected it.”
Roachell said she enjoys learning about the South African culture.
“It’s honestly really cool,” Roachell said. “She teaches us a lot.”
Gorlei said she’s only been home twice since she came to Arkansas. She won’t head back across the Atlantic Ocean until the summer.
“I’m mindful of how far away she is from home and (we have been) welcoming her into our home probably more frequently than most,” Estes-Taylor said.
In the meantime, Gorlei said she will be working on her golf game, and she loves it.
“I enjoy the opportunities (the UofA) has and the fact that we can travel around America and compete against girls that are at such a high-standard,” Gorlei said. “The competition is great.”
The team will next hit the greens when the Hogs begin their second half of the season in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the Lady Puerto Rico Classic from Feb. 12-14.
“She’s just a really wonderful young lady that’s grateful for the opportunity to play the game that she loves while gaining a quality education,” Estes-Taylor said. “I’m so very lucky that she chose our school. She’s a tremendous leader and contributor to our program.”