Maggio shows determination in senior season

Texas A&M's Mary Michael Maggio

Texas A&M's Mary Michael Maggio

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Mary Michael Maggio speaks with a thick Arkansas accent. Her Southern manners are such that she uses courtesies such as "sir" and "ma’am" without fail. She’s also one tough college player, with a competitive streak that has served her well.

Maggio, a senior at Texas A&M, earned what she calls her biggest college victory on Oct. 7 at the Liz Murphey Fall Preview. Rather than build a lead and protect it at the University of Georgia Golf Course, this season's NCAA Championship venue, Maggio sprinted from six shots off the lead and a tie for 15th after 36 holes to the top position. The final two holes – an eagle and a birdie – were key.

Before arriving in Athens, Ga., Maggio had been talking with her coaches about how to effectively finish a tournament. During the final round of the Fall Preview, Maggio made the turn at even par, 2 over for the tournament. She had one thought on her mind: I need to make something happen for the team’s sake.

Maggio knocked it to a foot at No. 12 to make birdie, then birdied again from 2 feet at the 15th. She thought she’d have a chance if she parred out, but after watching opponents Emilie Burger (Georgia) and Sophia Popov (USC) float in approach shots at the par-5 17th, Maggio went for it from 54 yards and holed out for eagle. She made an 8-footer for birdie at 18 to close with a final-round 67 and win by one.

“I knew it was potentially to win the tournament,” Maggio said of the putt at 18.

Maggio notched her second collegiate title after winning last spring’s Big 12 Championship. At that tournament, she made up five shots in the final round.

Confidence is an often-used word in Maggio’s vocabulary. She puts a lot of weight on this summer’s Women’s Western Amateur, where she finished second in stroke play before losing in the match-play quarterfinals.

“I almost would say that was a bigger confidence boost than Big 12s,” she said.

What makes it all the more impressive is that Maggio continues to tee it up despite a torn labrum in her right shoulder. As a freshman at LSU, Maggio underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery that required an eight-month recovery period. It was her second shoulder surgery, and though the injury still nags, it won’t end her college career early.

“I’ll definitely make it through the season; that’s not a question,” she said.

Forced to limit her range time, Maggio has changed her game plan. She now focuses on managing the golf course. The strategy has worked well, as a week after her Fall Preview victory, she finished third at the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate.

“It was cool to see some hard work pay off,” she said.

• • •

Starting from scratch: Joanne Steele knew what she was taking on when she moved from Missoula, Mont., to Jacksonville, Fla., to become North Florida's first women’s coach. The Ospreys began their maiden season this fall under Steele, who is no newcomer to the Florida golf scene after playing collegiately at nearby Jacksonville University.

“I honestly thought that day would never come,” Steele said of the Ospreys’ first competition against her alma mater.

Steele calls the duel against Jacksonville a great way to start the season, allowing her players to get some experience without being overwhelmed by a large field. The two teams tied. Most recently, North Florida finished fifth among 14 teams at the LPGA Xavier Invitational.

“You don’t know until they get here how they’re going to respond the first time out,” Steele said of her young players. Her roster consists of six freshmen, and a lone junior in Kelly Miller. Miller transferred to North Florida after two years at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Fla., and has helped prepare her teammates for collegiate play.

Steele is still in the building process but acknowledges that the women’s team is in a unique position at North Florida. With a men’s team that has hovered near the top 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings the past year or two (the Osprey men are ranked No. 36), expectations may be heightened for the women. Still, it’s early to start thinking about anything beyond the fall, especially the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship or postseason.

“I want them to really come together as a team,” Steele said. “... I think (the point of) the fall is to get them introduced to college golf, just to really build toward that conference championship.”

• • •

Brother-sister duo dominate opposition: For anyone wondering which family claims top honors in college golf, Nathan and Amy Anderson are making a strong case. The victories continue to pile up for Amy – she reached No. 16 in the rankings with her Jackrabbit Invitational victory on Oct. 1 – but older brother Nathan is peaking, too.

Both seniors at North Dakota State (the Andersons were home-schooled and in the same grade even though Nathan is 16 months older), Amy and Nathan led their respective teams to victories at the Jackrabbit as both claimed the individual titles. Both teams have one more start this season – the women will play the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Invitational at the end of the month as the men finish play this week at the UMKC Bill Ross Intercollegiate.

Head women’s coach Matt Johnson says the possibility of both Andersons winning the team title at the Jackrabbit was something the teams joked about at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“What are the odds that it would actually end up happening?” Johnson said.

Amy has excelled in U.S. Golf Association events with Nathan on her bag. He was there when she won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2009 and also when she briefly held the lead during the weather-shortened opening round at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.

After struggling in his first two seasons with the Bison, Nathan began to find his game as a junior. He opened his senior season with a victory at the Navy Fall Classic and a fourth-place finish at the Erv Kaiser Invitational.

Johnson isn’t looking forward to the day North Dakota State has to say goodbye to the Andersons. They’ve made a noticeable difference in both programs, and not just in the rankings. Johnson said Amy has helped change the status quo.

Said Johnson: “With Amy being here and being as good as she is, everyone just works harder. . . . It’s not (recruiting) different people, as much as the work ethic has changed.”

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