MSU women's golf does creative recruiting to reach Spanish star

Feb 9, 2017

EAST LANSING, Mich. — For international athletes, traveling over the Atlantic Ocean might not be worth the quick 48-hour trip the NCAA allows for official visits. This prompted MSU women’s golf head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll to use a new method of recruitment - Skype.

Paz Marfa Sans was a student at Fomento de Centros de Enseñanza high school in Barcelona, Spain. This cosmopolitan city is known more for its soccer team and architecture, rather than golf stars. Marfa Sans hoped to play golf in the United States, and hopefully turn pro like her favorite golfers, Rory Mcllroy and Lydia Ko.

MSU business-preference freshman Paz Marfa Sans during the fall 2016 season. Marfa Sans shot a season low 72 at the Tar Heel Invitational.
Credit MSU Athletics / Michigan State University

“In Spain the sport is not as big as here,” Marfa Sans said. “In Spain if you go to college you study or you go play professional.”

Slobodnik-Stoll, a 20 year head coach for MSU, was at the 2014 Doral-Publix Golf Classic in Miami where she first saw Marfa Sans play.

Her first time in the United States, she had an average score of 74.3 over three days, with a low round of 71.

Slobodnik-Stoll said there is always uncertainty about international athletes, because it is harder to judge someone who lives far away. To gain more information on Marfa Sans, the MSU coaching staff researched her scores in Spain and reached out to her high school coaches to get a better scope of character.

“We recruit based on character, grades and talent and it is true that talent is in the No. 3 spot but that doesn’t mean it is not significant,” Slobodnik-Stoll said.

In 2015, Marfa Sans participated for team Spain in the European Girls’ Team Championship in the Czech Republic. Marfa Sans placed in the top 20, and helped Spain win the tournament.

Slobodnik-Stoll said Marfa Sans responded quickly to her emails and their bond rapidly grew.

The largest challenge was the comfort level of Marfa Sans’ parents letting their daughter travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Michigan. This is when Slobodnik-Stoll tested out her new form of recruitment.

Using Skype, Slobodnik-Stoll could give Marfa Sans a small tour of the cafeterias and facilities with her phone. The coach put herself in the family’s situation, by thinking about the pressure of sending a teenager to MSU for golf.

"We tell every recruit that I have my own daughter, but I have 12 others, and that’s important to us,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “We do sell that but it’s true. I think her parents understood that she was coming to a place where she was going to be taken care of and be a part of a family.”  

After deliberation and talking to her family, Marfa Sans decided to take her 48-hour visit. And from there, she was sold.

“She (Slobodnik-Stoll) helped me a lot, because back home it’s just so easy with your parents that support you and I came here alone,” Marfa Sans, now a business preference major, said. “I like it here a lot.”  

In her first semester as a Spartan, Marfa Sans participated in every tournament, shooting a 72 as her lowest score in the Tar Heel Invitation on Oct. 16, 2016. She is the first lefty golfer at MSU under Slobodnik-Stoll. In the classroom, she was performing at a high level as well.

“Paz four-pointed her fall semester, that’s pretty awesome for an international 18-year-old to come in and play every tournament and four point the semester,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “We were pretty pleased.”

The MSU women’s golf team has a six-year streak of having the highest grade-point average of all MSU sports. Slobodnik-Stoll said this challenges every athlete to be successful in the classroom because each class doesn’t want to be the one to break the streak.

Although Marfa Sans spends less time with her family in Spain, she hopes the MSU women’s golf team will provide that sense of companionship, while also helping her mental game on the course.

“It’s a hard part for me because I get distracted or I just want to do things so perfect that I don’t have patience but like I’m working on it a lot and every time I feel like I’m getting better and better,” she said.