Only child at age 15 comes to America and leaves an everlasting impact on her host family and golf team
Lake Creek golf coach Sam Hochhauser received word last summer that a student from Spain, that may be pretty good at golf, would be attending Lake Creek for the year as a foreign exchange student. Being the coach of a team that placed sixth at State in 2022 and only graduated one senior, one couldn’t predict that a foreign exchange student would fill in the gap and make the impact that Maria Ruiz de la Herran Espana was going to make.
“We were so fortunate to get an immediate-impact player like Maria,” Hochhauser said. “I found out she was coming a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. From the first swing I saw of hers, I knew she would be special, and that first impression proved to be true throughout the season.”
While Coach Hochhauser was learning that he had a new team member that would make an impact, Maria was not in a placement that was suitable and was requesting a change through her agency coordinator. For Maria, it wasn’t looking like her experience in America was going to be a good one. Then came the Ogorchock family and their obedience to what they can only describe as God’s calling.
“I was visiting with a friend the first week of school and she mentioned that a foreign exchange student that played golf needed a new host home,” host mom Amanda Ogorchock shared. “We already have three children that are all busy and have multiple sports and activities, so I wasn’t sure we could handle another. But after prayer and talking to our children, we said yes! She joined us August 18 and she has been an incredible blessing to our family.”
Maria, an only child in her family, immediately had three siblings and two host parents that adored her and were completely invested in making this year in America one for the memory books. Though the Ogorchocks have a golf membership at Conroe Country Club, which offered Maria the opportunity to practice and train with golf pro Ron Herridge, Michael and Amanda Ogorchock have never had a golfer in the house that they had to go watch.
“It was a learning experience on how to follow at the course and walking along with her,” Michael Ogorchock said. “I learned her mannerisms to know when she was upset with a shot or when she made a great one. The toughest part was wanting to will her to do well, and hurting for her when she didn’t.”
Lake Creek golf did do quite well, earning the title of both District and Region Champions and finishing third at State, the most successful season in Lake Creek Golf’s history. Maria’s contributions to the team, both as a golfer and as a teammate, were instrumental to their success.
“The girls are a tight knit group and they accepted her as one of their own,” Coach Sam Hochhauser said. “She fit in to the group seamlessly and her play on the course helped us tremendously. She worked hard and improved as the year went on, having several tournaments where her score was meaningful to our success.”
Golf has always been a sport that Maria’s family has played, but in Spain it is an individual sport. After putting the clubs down competitively at around age 12, because it didn’t provide much fun anymore, Maria learned she would be attending school in America at a high school that had a golf team. She spent the month before traveling working on her game and practicing more, sending swing videos to Coach Hochhauser.
“Losing a senior on varsity last year, we weren’t sure who would fill the spot,” senior Lake Creek golfer Katya Tibbetts said. “But as soon as she came to practice, we knew she was going to be the one.”
Coming onto a successful team as a female athlete can be rough, especially a team so competitive and successful. Not being able to drive and get herself to any school events, her teammates quickly became her chauffeurs and say they never did it out of pity or obligation, but because they truly wanted to be her friend and loved getting to know her better.
“Maria is so sweet and she was pretty clueless when she first came, so we were just really happy to take her under our wings,” senior team member Kailana Davis said. “Then it was just easy, and we hung out with her because she was our friend- not because we had to help the new girl.”
Girls on the team started attending Bible study together and hanging out after practice and the connection between them all as friends quickly turned to success on the course.
“This has been the best year for me!” Maria said. “I’ve never gotten to play this sport on a team, and it just made it so much more fun! As a team player, you want to do better, and you want to put in the work to improve when you are motivated to support a team score. I love these girls so much and they’ve always been so nice to me!”
Being a foreign exchange student is a one-year commitment that will leave a family and a team very saddened to see her leave, but very thankful for the impact she made. Maria says that school in America is much more fun and the opportunities for learning are significantly better than at home. At Lake Creek HS she is taking the required exchange classes of Geography, US History, Biology and Algebra II, but she is thankful for classes like Hospitality and Child Development that are allowing her the opportunity to think about her future. As this was technically her sophomore year of high school, she is hopeful that she can experience another year here before graduation.
“In Spain you don’t have the options that are available here to take career and future-based learning or specialize in a detailed subject area,” Maria said. “Math is just math and science is just science, so the specific course studies have been a lot more fun. I have to go back to Spain for my junior year, but if the school will let me, I would like to come back my senior year.”
With a grin and giggle among her teammates, she added, “But if I get to come back, I will only come back if I can come back to Lake Creek.”
In less than a year, Maria has not only created lifelong friendships through the golf team, but has also developed sibling relationships with the three Ogorchock children, something very different than her only-child life back home. Maggie (14) is a freshman at Lake Creek and Mollie (11) and Luke (9) attend Keenan ES.
“Maria embraced each of them from day one, and now they are all very close,” Michael said. “Our youngest Luke said she is his nicest sister, Mollie adores her because she pays attention to her and lets her hang out with her, and our oldest Maggie and her are as thick as thieves. We will all be very sad when she leaves.”
The family has shared Aggie football, Houston Astros baseball and even Disneyland with Maria in tow, always including her as their own. Amanda says that they first decided that above all she needed to feel safe and loved, because that’s what she would want for her own children. And together with their extended family, they immediately found out she was easy to love as they shared holidays and vacations with her. Before she returns to Spain in June, the family is taking a trip to Mexico together for one final experience.
“We didn’t really know anything about hosting until Maria arrived,” Amanda said. “We soon realized that these students look at this year as an amazing opportunity to have a true American experience and we are grateful for the blessings that have poured out because we said yes to something God put on our hearts. I couldn’t imagine not knowing and loving this sweet girl.”
Lake Creek golf couldn’t imagine not knowing and loving Maria either.
“Maria was a dream to coach,” Hochhauser said. “She was determined to be the best player she could be throughout the season, she never complained and she was encouraging to all of her teammates. We will not only miss her play on the course, but also her character, her work ethic, and her determination to be the best teammate she could be. Her impact on Lake Creek golf will be everlasting.”
What’s next for Maria? She leaves America and returns to Spain in June and the golf girls and Ogorchock family have a going away party planned. A few girls will accompany her to the airport on June 8 and undoubtedly there will be tears shed. But Maria plans to return to America and most definitely looks forward to keeping in touch with her new family and friends.
“Golf will be different, because I won’t have anyone to practice with or be challenged by,” Maria said. “But if I can’t come back my senior year, I for sure want to come to the states for college. I’d really like to return and get to experience being on a golf team again and I’m so thankful for the way the Ogorchocks treated me like their daughter. God was so good to me through the love of their family.”
As Michael and Amanda prepare to say goodbye, many would want to know if they plan to host another student in the future. Of course, their home is open to Maria if she can return her senior year, but whether or not they will take in another child is yet to be determined.
“I’m not sure if we’ll do it again, because Maria set the bar so high,” Michael said. “But we are a family of faith, and we know God was 100% in control of her coming to us, so we’ll leave that decision up to Him.”