The secret to Florida State’s impressive start to the season might just lie in Doak Campbell Stadium. That’s where you’ll find players running up and down the 84 rows (168 steps) competing to be “Freaks.”
Coach Debbie Dillman said the Freak competition, which features players running all the rows 10 times as fast as they can (ideally in less than 20 minutes), is part of an effort to train a better athlete. And, well, you’d have to be a little freakish to want to run 1,680 steps.
“They sit there and cheer each other on, and it’s as much a mental exercise as a physical one,” Dillman said. “They’re just supporting each other so well that everything bleeds over.”
Added to extra work put in by players over the summer, the healthy team competition and increased conditioning already has paid off in the Seminoles’ first two tournaments.
After a second-place finish to Georgia at the Duramed Cougar Classic in Charleston, S.C., FSU rallied for a five-shot victory over Central Florida at the rain-shortened Bettie Lou Fall Invite in Lexington, Ky., its first team title since the 2008 LSU Invitational.
The Bettie Lou was career win No. 22 for Dillman, and she can see the potential for more titles for her Seminoles, who are No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“I think probably your very best combination would be winning by committee, where any given week any one of your players can come out and win, and honestly right now I feel like that could happen,” she said.
“It’s been a long time since I could say that.”
This is the first time in four seasons the team has played without Caroline Westrup, a four-time All-American considered by many to be the best female golfer in school history. With Westrup gone, this year’s team has no captain, but as junior Macarena Silva sees it, the whole group working together is just as effective.
“Caroline is a great player, but we are great players also,” Silva said. “I think that all the team has been working hard, and it’s paying off.”
Silva contributed to last week’s team win by tying for individual medalist honors with Florida International’s Paula Hurtado. Silva thinks she has learned enough about the college game in her first two years to post more top individual finishes and help the team perform better as well.
Lacey Agnew, the squad’s lone senior, also sees a spark in the Seminoles.
“We’re coming into our own,” Agnew said. “We’ve been working hard for three years. I think just all of a sudden a few things clicked.”
Agnew certainly is playing her part, carrying a 71.0 stroke average – eight shots lower than her average at any point in her first three seasons. She also now holds a share of the school’s scoring record after a 65 in the second round of the Duramed Cougar Classic, where she finished second.
Those performances show Agnew meant business when she told Dillman early in the season she would do everything possible both on and off the course to lead the team in her final season. She and Silva also are getting a boost from the play of sophomore Hanna Thomson and freshmen Jessica Negron and Mary Beth Ramsay.
“We really feel like we’re on a roll, and for the first time in a while, feel like we really deserve it,” Agnew said. “We’ve got some different energy, and (it’s) all positive.”
Must be from running all those steps.
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Perfect record: Minutes after Amy Anderson won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in July, the 17-year-old was asked if she intended to change her college plans, which included a golf scholarship to North Dakota State in Fargo.
Anderson simply smiled, pumped a fist and said “Go Bison.” Two months later, Anderson is looking more than comfortable with her choice. She has won her first three tournaments at North Dakota State, breaking the school’s 18-, 36- and 54-hole scoring records in the process.
“Now that I see kind of what’s out there, I would love to win every single tournament I play,” Anderson said. “Of course that’s somewhat unrealistic.”
Anderson’s so-far perfect record includes wins at the Concordia Cobber Open by nine shots, the Chip-N-Club Invitational by three shots and the Northern Arizona Mountain Shootout by nine. First-year coach Matt Johnson said Anderson is above anything the program has seen since it was established in 1996. She has put North Dakota State on the map and has Johnson’s phone ringing off the hook.
Despite it all, she’s still the girl with the big smile from Oxbox, N.D.
“What I really enjoy best about Amy and the team is when we go somewhere – when we’re at a tournament, when we’re out to dinner, at the hotel – you can’t tell who the star is, so to speak,” Johnson said.
The previously unheralded Anderson turned down offers from larger schools such as Ohio State and Iowa. As some question her decision to stay in her home state at a smaller school with a smaller golf program, Johnson knows it was the right thing for Anderson, if for no other reasons than it allowed her to stay close to her family and swing coach Dale Helm.
“I think there’s a lot of things for her here that are a benefit to her that a lot of people don’t realize,” he said.
It might appear that with three wins right out of the gate, Anderson has lost the underdog status she relished at the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Instead, she quickly is becoming the one to beat.
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Five questions with TCU sophomore Rachel Raastad:
1. What do you think is the strongest part of your game?
I have the ability to adjust. Like when Coach (Angie Ravaioli-Larkin) is teaching me something, I can easily figure it out and start to use it on the course. With my short game and stuff for different courses and for different types of grass, I can easily adjust to that. Probably also my golf swing. It’s pretty steady.
2. Your family owns an island in Norway. What’s that like – do you play golf there?
It’s just a small island, so you can’t play really play golf or anything there. Everything is stone or rocks, but we just do it for summer vacation, summer holidays. We stay there for a week or so, or take a trip out with the boat (and) barbecue. (It’s) somewhere we just relax and don’t really do anything.
3. What’s the biggest difference between Norway and TCU?
So many differences. . . . It’s starting to get so cold back home that you can’t really play anymore, while here you can still play in shorts. The courses here are so much better; the greens are a lot faster. Everything is so much better here.
4. Your nickname is Goofy. How does being goofy help your golf game?
I try to stay calm as possible. Sometimes it can be a bit hard. I try to always smile and laugh, which makes it a lot easier for me to keep the spirit high. When Coach is there and I’m struggling, she can just say a couple of funny things and I’ll be happy again.
5. What are you listening to on your iPod right now?
Mostly Lionel Richie and probably some Nora Jones. Kings of Leon, too. That’s what it is at the moment, but it kind of changes with the mood that I’m in.
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A look ahead
What: Eat A Peach Collegiate
When: Oct. 4-5
Where: Idle Hour Country Club, Macon, Ga.
Why it’s important: Florida State puts its new top-10 ranking on the line in a test that may show if it can continue to climb. The Seminoles will get the most competition from No. 9 Georgia. Furman, Georgia State and defending champion Augusta State also are in the field.
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What: Windy City Collegiate Championship
When: Oct. 5-6
Where: The Glen Club, Glenview, Ill.
Why it’s important: Purdue takes the course again after winning the Lady Northern Intercollegiate by 13 shots Sept. 28. No. 6 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, the Boilermakers will have competition from Arizona and New Mexico, Tulane, TCU, Iowa State, UNLV and Northwestern, all ranked in the top 50 by Golfweek.