It’s tough to remember at times that Stephanie Meadow is just a freshman. It seems Meadow often forgets that, too.
The Alabama newcomer won her second tournament in a row March 1 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. She finished the tournament at 5-under 211, and her second-round 66 included a front-nine 30 as she continually stuck shots inside 10 feet, made the putts and even dropped two unexpected bombs of over 25 feet. The round ended with two bogeys, but it still marks Meadow’s lowest score so far in a college event.
Meadow is no stranger to winning after an illustrious junior career, but she never managed to clear the hump during her first semester – her best finish was T-16 at the SEC/Pac 10 Challenge. What’s different this spring?
“When I ask her she says that the difference is setting a higher standard for herself, taking her first semester and kind of evaluating college golf compared to junior golf and what she needed to do differently to compete on this level,” said head coach Mic Potter.
Potter has noticed improvement in Meadow’s short game after she spent the winter working at Alabama’s indoor facilities – the extent of which she had never had access to before as a junior golfer. Meadow hails from Ireland, but played and practiced at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Potter also notes Meadow’s mental prowess, which also carries over to the classroom.
The one-shot win over top-ranked Megan McChrystal, a likely Player of the Year candidate, speaks volumes for a Freshman of the Year run. But Meadow is not looking to chase end-of-the-year accolades.
“The key is not to get greedy and try and make things so much better, just keep gradually improving on what’s been working,” Meadow said. “If I keep playing well maybe I can win again.”
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Impressive record: Daytona State’s Mitsuki Katahira continues to maintain one of the most flawless records in collegiate golf. Katahira, the defending NJCAA National Champion, has built a six-for-seven record so far this season in the Division-I dominant events with which Daytona State head coach Laura Brown fills the team’s schedule. Katahira’s only non-win came in November when she finished runner-up to teammate Ericka Schnieder at the Pat Bradley Invitational.
As Katahira nears the end of her eligibility at Daytona State, she is keeping an eye on a potential pro career. After having the opportunity to play and practice at the LPGA’s Q-School venue, LPGA International, Katahira’s chances to advance out of qualifying seem better than average. She’ll get her first Futures Tour start April 1-3 at the Daytona Beach Invitational, where’s she’ll play on a sponsor exemption. Katahira has a history of lighting up the course, shooting 8-under 64 there on her way to the national title last spring.
“Her work ethic is just amazing, there’s not a day that she’s not at the course,” Brown said. “Every tournament we go to, the day after the tournament I give my players a day off but she won’t take a day off.”
For her part, Katahira isn’t focused on winning, playing pro events or really anything but playing the game.
“I don’t really think about that, I don’t really think about my winning but I always try my best playing every tournament.”
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Flu season? After two players with hit with a stomach ailment at the Kinderlou Forest Invitational, No. 11-ranked Georgia was forced to withdraw from the event. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Marta Silva Zamora, battled through the first two rounds (posting scores of 75-80) but could not compete in the final round, and fellow junior Milena Savich was not able to play at all.
“I’ve never had anything even close to this happen before,” said head coach Kelly Hester. “Officially, we had four individuals in the golf tournament. What are you going to do? Obviously, it’s not what we were looking for. I think the girls were scared they were going to get sick, too.”
The Bulldogs will have a chance to return to full health as they take a three-week break before their next tournament, the Battle at Rancho Bernardo.
–Information from Georgia Athletics was used in this report.
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A look ahead…
What: SunTrust Gator Women’s Invite
When: March 6-7
Where: Mark Bostick GC, Gainesville, Fla.
Why it’s important: The most intriguing storyline in Gainesville will be Iowa State. After a near-miss and a win so far this spring, the Cyclones’ performance at the Gator Invite will say a lot about the strength of the program. Chattanooga enters the event after a win at Kinderlou Forest, and Colorado and Arkansas also are teams to watch after impressive fall seasons.
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Five questions with Augusta State’s Casey Kennedy, who earned her first collegiate victory March 1 at the Kinderlou Forest Invitational, leading the team to a third-place finish.
1.) You held a share of the lead entering the final round of the event. How did you keep yourself calm?
I tried not to concentrate on the individual part. I thought no matter what happens with individual, I’m here for my team as well so play the best I can and if I play the best I can for my team it will work out for individual as well.
2.) Your final three holes were crucial in your one-shot win. Walk me through those holes.
I bogeyed my third-to-last, which would have been No. 1 on the golf course, so on the next hole I normally hit driver. It’s a par 5 but I thought with the wind, ‘I’m not going to reach it today anyway.’ So I hit 3-wood to be safe. From there I just laid up and gave myself about 100 yards in and I hit a wedge in close and then just gave myself a stroke at the putt and ended up making it. On the next hole, I didn’t know . . . if I had to make another birdie or not so I just played the hole out as best I could. I almost made my birdie putt, but it all ended up well.
3.) What’s the biggest difference between Augusta State and Auburn, where you attended last season?
It’s a lot smaller, that’s for sure. Going from an SEC school to Augusta State has been a big change. I also kind of like it better here, the golf is a lot more focused on the individual. … I like that better, and the small-school atmosphere. At Augusta State, since we’re the only Division I sport, the whole community is also a big supporter of golf.
4.) Augusta State’s men’s team won the NCAA Championship last spring. How motivating is that for your team?
We practice alongside them all the time. They’re always out there, we’re always out there. We actually have a really close relationship with the guys’ team which is really nice. We play some little competitions like chipping games every now and then. It really helps us to see how they do things, and they teach us how to do it as well.
5.) It’s almost Masters time, and this will be your first year in Augusta during the tournament. What are you most excited for?
I think we’re going in on the practice round which is really nice, but it’s going to be totally different. There’s going to be so many more people here, it’s going to be a lot bigger buzz and being in the atmosphere is going to be great.