San Jose State women’s coach John Dormann isn’t joking when he says the golf IQ of his senior superstar Erica Moston during her freshman year was “about zero.”
Unsure of a number of basic golf rules, Moston was awkward and out of place amongst her teammates. After all, she had just picked up a club for the first time as a high-school freshman and didn’t make the team at Notre Dame in Belmont, Calif., until sophomore year.
“She didn’t even know what a skins game was,” Dormann said. “To be honest, I didn’t think she had much of a chance to make it in college golf.”
Talk about an extreme makeover.
With two months left in her college career, Moston is the 24th-ranked player in the country and reigning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. She hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 this season and won her second college event last weekend at the Mountain View Collegiate.
“It’s crazy when I think about it, too,” Moston said.
Dormann and Moston arrived at San Jose State in the fall of 2005. At the team’s second event of the season, Dormann decided to bring his inexperienced freshman along as the Spartans’ fifth player. The practice round wasn’t pretty. Moston couldn’t keep the ball on the course, and her teammates were growing restless.
But when the event started, Moston found her stride. In her first college event, Moston tied for fifth and spurred the Spartans to a 25-shot victory.
“It was the most unbelievable thing,” Dormann said. “I was in shock.”
With the help of a local club pro, Dormann and wife Dana, the team’s assistant coach, overhauled Moston’s swing and mechanics that winter. Always a long hitter with good hand-eye coordination from years playing softball, Moston quickly caught the golf bug and worked tirelessly on her game.
“She was like a blank canvas for us, and we were able to just paint the picture,” Dormann said. “She’s worked really hard to make the picture come clear.”
As a sophomore, Moston won her first college event, and by the end of her junior year, had moved up 84 spots in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Now, as a senior, Moston has led the Spartans to three victories in a row and a No. 16 national ranking. Until this season, Moston had never broken par in a college tournament. She’s now done it 11 times.
At last week’s Mountain View Collegiate in Tucson, Ariz., Moston closed with rounds of 68-69 to win the individual title by two shots over Louisville’s Cindy LaCrosse. It was a prominent moment considering that at the same event a year ago, Moston shot 76 in the final round to lose by a stroke.
Life after college still is a mystery for Moston. Leaving team golf and venturing into the professional world is a bit intimidating, she said. Because she hasn’t tasted much top-tier competition, Moston won’t try LPGA Q-School until she has played at least a year on the Duramed Futures Tour.
“I still have to build up confidence,” Moston said.
For now, Moston is focused solely on her final days as a college golfer. A berth at the NCAA Championship is within reach. The Spartans haven’t been to the Big Dance since 2001 and missed advancing out of the West Regional in 2007 by a shot. Last year, Moston played at the national championship as an individual. This year, she hopes to bring the team.
“I’ve never gone into a tournament as the one to beat,’’ Moston said. “But it may just be starting right now.”
PLAYING WITH THE PROS: Three college players – Arizona State’s Azahara Munoz, Auburn’s Candace Schepperle, and UCLA’s Tiffany Joh – are in the field this week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA’s first major of the season. Check out what Munoz and Schepperle said about competing against the world’s best on “College Weekly.”
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Five questions with Ohio State seniors Vaughn Snyder and Jessica Hauser
1) Where’s the first place you take someone who has never visited Ohio State?
Snyder: “If it’s in the fall, you definitely have to go to a football game. There’s no experience like it. The first time I went, when the band came out, it sent chills down my spine.”
Hauser: “The Horseshoe – the football stadium. It’s a symbol of the university. People love to see it. A lot of times, the gates are open and you can walk right in and check out the field. It’s pretty cool.”
2) What’s the coldest temperature you’ve played golf in?
Snyder: “When I was at Akron my sophomore year (before transferring to Ohio State), we played a couple holes in 35 degrees. It was actually snowing. It was miserable. At the state tournament my senior year of high school, we actually had a hail delay. That was the coldest weather I’ve ever played in. It was 35 degrees the whole day.”
Hauser: “I’m from Wisconsin, so I’ve played in some really, really bad weather before. The worst was in high school. It was snowing and temperatures were definitely in the 20s. It was a mix between snow and freezing rain. Eventually they called the tournament.”
3) What’s your favorite golf course you’ve played since being at school?
Snyder: “We just played The Bear’s Club (in Jupiter, Fla.) over spring break. I thought that was just a dynamite course. You can’t miss a shot down there. It’s tough. I can see now see why all the pros like to go there. The greens were rock hard. It was a real good test of golf.”
Hauser: “I love the Scarlet Course, but I think it’s a treat when we go over to Scioto Country Club. It’s down the road from us, and it’s where Jack Nicklaus grew up playing. It’s just a beautiful place. We get to play it twice a year.”
4) What’s been your best non-golf highlight since being at Ohio State?
Snyder: “We just ate dinner at Jack Nicklaus’ house over spring break. It was pretty cool. He told us a bunch of stories. It was really surreal. I was pretty nervous. It’s not every day you have Jack Nicklaus cooking dinner for you. We had steaks and rice, and red velvet cake for dinner. It was unbelievable.”
Hauser: “Michigan week is always a blast. Mirror Lake Night is the Thursday night before the football game. At midnight, the whole campus jumps into the lake. It’s crazy, but it’s a blast. It’s the last game of our football season, so it’s freezing outside, and this year it was snowing out. But it’s just unbelievable to see how excited people are for it. I haven’t done it every year, but I’ve done it before.”
5) What are your plans after graduation?
Snyder: “I’m going to stay amateur throughout the summer, then turn pro. I’ll then maybe try to Monday qualify for some Fall Series events, and go from there. If golf doesn’t work out, I’m going to get into college coaching.”
Hauser: “I graduate next fall, so I’ll stay amateur this summer. Then I’m going to move to Florida or Arizona – I haven’t decided yet – then turn pro and play the Futures Tour starting in March and hope to earn my LPGA card. If not, I’ll probably do something in the golf industry. Who knows? I could keep going to school if the economy is still bad. Maybe law school.”