Daytona State redefines JUCO women’s golf
All things considered, head coach Laura Brown has a nearly perfect setup at Daytona State College. That’s why it comes as no surprise that her young team is unbeaten this fall, despite being a junior college in a Division I world.
Located in Daytona Beach, Fla., Brown can sell her program to incoming freshmen on any number of points. There’s the warm Florida climate that allows year-round practice, the opportunity to play LPGA International every day, and Brown’s extensive background with the game, which includes four years of experience playing on the LPGA. Still an LPGA teaching professional, Brown recently was named National Coach of the Year.
Most impressive so far this season might be the Falcons’ eight-shot win Oct. 5 at the USF/Waterlefe Invitational, where the team topped programs like South Florida, Miami, Stetson, Augusta State and Division II defending national champion Nova Southeastern. In the 13 years since Brown built this program from the ground up, the growth is noticeable.
On the Lance & Asher Show, the guys discuss a never-ending problem in college golf: slow play.
“At the beginning, it was hard getting into those (Division I) events,” she said. “We weren’t that good when we started.”
Now, those fields aren’t just important in keeping Daytona State challenged, but also in getting players exposure. Brown says most players who spend two years at Daytona State flew under the recruiting radar in high school, or need a couple of years to get their grades up before moving on to Division I. The list of colleges that have picked up Daytona State players includes Florida, Central Florida, College of Charleston, Florida State and Kennesaw State.
Next fall, that list will expand, as Ericka Schneider has secured a spot on the Ole Miss roster. Amy West also has given a verbal commitment to South Florida.
Then there’s Mitsuki Katahira, a sophomore from Japan who came to Daytona State by way of the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy. Katahira had her eye on a pro career, and hadn’t taken the SATs or gone through the NCAA clearinghouse when Brown realized what a gem she was. In her first season with the Falcons, Katahira won the individual title at the NJCAA National Championship with the lowest score in history, leading the team to a 60-shot routing and its fourth national championship.
Like the team, Katahira’s head-to-head record so far this season is flawless. Not only is she undefeated in three events, but she won the past two events – the Waterlefe and the Xavier Invitational, both Division I-dominant tournaments – by eight-shot margins. Since working with Brown on her hip rotation, Katahira’s scoring average has dropped from 74 to 69.75.
“Her work ethic is amazing, I’ve never seen a player work that hard ever,” Brown said. “Basically if the sun is up and she’s not in class, she’s at the golf course.”
After Katahira graduates from Daytona State in the spring, she plans to go through LPGA Qualifying School in the fall. She’s been once before, but didn’t advance through the first stage. Should she advance to the final stage this time, Katahira will have the rare advantage of attempting to qualify for the LPGA on her home course. It’s something Katahira doesn’t take for granted, just like the three tournament titles she’s racked up this season.
“It feel pretty good, winning tournaments is a great feeling so I hope I can keep up the rest of the year,” she said.
Even if the pros don’t work out right away, Brown already has seen interest in Katahira from schools like Miami, South Florida, Central Florida and even defending national champion Purdue.
“I really think anybody would be interested in her,” Brown said.
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Records falling: For Baylor, 65 was the magic number this week at the Price’s Give ’Em Five Intercollegiate. The Bears finished second at the event, held at the New Mexico State University Golf Course in Las Cruces, N.M., as two golfers shattered the previous 18-hole scoring record.
Junior Jaclyn Jensen was the first to put her name in the record books Oct. 11 when she posted the first 7-under 65, breaking the previous 18-hole scoring record of 67 that was held by four golfers, including senior teammate Lene Hafsten-Morch (set in 2008). Two days later, Hafsten-Morch regained her old record, shooting a 65 of her own.
The round propelled Hafsten-Morch to her first collegiate victory. Her 7-under 209 (71-73-65) total also broke the school 54-hold scoring record.
“I’ve been wanting (my first collegiate win) for a long time,” Hafsten-Morch said, according to the school Web site. “It feels great to finally get it. I took it one shot at a time Wednesday and hopefully we can gain some confidence from this tournament as we prepare for San Antonio.”
Jensen was T-2 at 2-under 214.
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A look ahead. . .
What: Harvard Invitational
When: Oct. 16-17
Where: The International, Bolton, Mass.
Why it’s important: During an otherwise quiet week in women’s college golf – thanks in part to the World Amateur Team Championship to be played Oct. 20-23 in Argentina – Harvard is staging its inaugural Ivy League showdown. All seven teams in the conference will be in attendance, with Yale leading the field in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at No. 72.
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Five questions with Colorado junior Jessica Wallace, who won the Heather Farr/CU Memorial Invitational:
1.) Even after being in a car accident before the final round of the Heather Farr, you decided you were going to play. Walk me through that decision.
I woke up that morning, and physically I felt fine so I figured that it was better for me to be out on the golf course doing something than to be inside all day, so I called up my coach maybe 45 minutes before tee times and asked if I could play. So she came out and picked me up, and we managed to get to the golf course before tee times started.
2.) You made a great comeback in that round even though it was very windy. What’s your key to playing in those conditions?
I think the most important thing with playing in the wind is taking note of just how severe it is in whatever direction it’s going. There were shots that we were playing that it was an 80-yard shot but you’d have to throw it like a 50 yard shot.
3.) You have three top 5s in four events this season. What aspect of your game is really firing?
My ball-striking has been really good since I first got here. I worked with our assistant coach, Brent Franklin on my swing and it’s really helped. I’ve been hitting tons of greens. Now I’m just trying to work on my short game and my wedge game, get them a bit better.
4.) You and Emily Talley make a tough one-two punch for Colorado. How much does she push you to play better?
It’s great having someone like that here. Just seeing how, even when she has tough holes, she comes back right after and it’s really cool to see how she composes herself on the golf course. It’s between every girl on the team. They’re all working really hard so you want to work just as hard as they all do.
5.) What’s the best part of being a student-athlete?
The best part of being a student-athlete, I personally like getting to travel and getting the mini breaks out of class every now and then. ... Everyone likes the traveling, and managing to balance the homework and the golf at the same time, it’s worth it.