UD Class of 2024 animal biosciences major Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez led UD’s women’s golf team to their win at the 2024 Colonial Athletic Association Conference Championship in St James, North Carolina.
UD Class of 2024 animal biosciences major Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez led UD’s women’s golf team to their win at the 2024 Colonial Athletic Association Conference Championship in St James, North Carolina.

Swinging into scientific success

June 13, 2024 Written by Nya Wynn | Photos Courtesy of Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez

Science and sports. Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez loves both. The international student from San Sebastian, Spain grew up interested in animals and caring for them. She knew she would one day study animal science. Maybe even become a veterinarian when the time came. 

But, in addition to her scientific prowess, Etxezarreta Hernandez excelled in the athletic arena. She’s also been playing golf since she was young. When it was finally time for her to pursue her undergraduate degree, she wasn’t quite ready to stop playing. 

So, Etxezarreta Hernandez decided to make the journey all the way from Spain to Newark, Delaware so that she could continue to light up the course and the laboratory in UD’s animal biosciences major

“Back home, once you get to university level, you can’t really do both, but I still wasn’t ready to stop playing competitive golf,” Etxezarreta Hernandez said. “I came here because you could study and you could still play golf.”

Etxezarreta Hernandez had to work hard to stay on top of her coursework, looking forward to her courses in animal biosciences, an uncommon major for student-athletes. 

“I think the balance between school and work, Oihana does a great job at especially being in such a different major than most other athletes,” said Jackie Mullens, assistant coach for the women’s golf team. “We have a lot of engineering majors on our team. So they can rely on each other for help in certain classes while Oihana is navigating her major on her own.” 

Students in UD’s animal biosciences major are exposed to some of the same classes as a typical life science major, but with the added benefit of hands-on animal experiences. The skills gained in UD’s undergraduate program prepare these Blue Hens for rigorous, research-based graduate programs. 

One course that stood out to Etxezarreta Hernandez was Poultry Production (ANFS 421/422), a capstone course that this young scientist highly recommends.

“I normally do prefer the larger animals, but, because of golf, I had to take my capstone in the spring, which meant I had to take the poultry class,” she said. “I ended up really liking it. We got the chicks when they were two days old and then had to properly incubate, feed and prepare them to one day go to market.”

In addition to Poultry Production, Etxezarreta Hernandez emphasized how much she enjoyed taking classes with Erin Brannick, associate professor of veterinary anatomic pathology, with whom she has taken Animal Diseases (ANFS332),Comparative Histopathology (ANFS440) and Applied Biomedical Communication (ANFS650), where students gain insight into the driving mechanisms in various animal systems. Like the rest of her animal biosciences cohort, Etxezarreta Hernandez also took challenging courses in microbiology, genetics or biochemistry. This scientific coursework prepares students for the complex physiology of animal systems. 

“It has been such a joy to have Oihana in my courses,” Brannick said. “She is a phenomenal student who has incredible drive and perseverance. I am so proud of all Oihana has accomplished academically and athletically.”

Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez has set or met a number of UD women’s golf records. Most notably, at the Nittany Lion Invitational last season, she scored a 65 in one-round, which is the lowest one-round in program history.
Oihana Etxezarreta Hernandez has set or met a number of UD women’s golf records. Most notably, at the Nittany Lion Invitational last season, she scored a 65 in one-round, which is the lowest one-round in program history.

While this student-athlete makes maintaining a high grade point average and low rounds on the golf course look easy, her accomplishments are no small feat for someone who finished high school and immediately moved to another country. Unlike the dimensions of other sports fields, courts, and pitches, Etxezarreta Hernandez found different dimensions awaiting her stateside. 

“The way that golf courses are, they’re usually different,” Etxezarreta Hernandez said. “For example, here in the U.S. the courses are usually longer and wider, but back home they’re usually narrower and shorter.”  

Not only did Etxezarreta Hernandez have to change her game, she also was thrown into an entirely new culture.

“I was shocked the first time I went to the dining hall here,” she said. “I remember it was 7 a.m. and I went with my friend who is also from Spain. There was a guy that I’m guessing was American, he played football, and he had two burgers on his plate. And it was 7 a.m. I had never seen that in my life.” 

Despite all the changes, Etxezarreta Hernandez did not let it affect her performance on or off of the golf course. 

“Oihana has shot some of the lowest rounds that we have had in our program,” Mullens said. “Her skills range from the tee all the way to the green, so she’s just an all around great player.”

Last season, Etxezarreta Hernandez scored a 65 in one-round while her score of 209 in the three-round at the Nittany Lion Invitational landed her with the lowest one-round and the second lowest three-round score in the UD’s program history. 

UD Women’s Golf recently attended the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) Conference Championship in St. James, North Carolina where the UD squad emerged victorious, beating The College of Charleston by just four shots.

“We have three seniors this year, and all three play a different part on the team, but Oihana definitely has taken some ownership in leading this team to our conference championship,” Mullens said. 

Similar to many of her animal bioscience peers, Etxezarreta Hernandez plans to pursue a master’s degree now that she has graduated from UD. She will return to her home in Spain for her graduate work. 

“When I go back home, I am not going to play golf as competitively as I do here, so it will probably just be like a hobby or something,” she said. “But I applied for master’s programs in Zoology and I am excited about the opportunities.”


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