Golfers Shine for Locals (As
appeared in the Flagship)
the last year or two, many of us have read or heard about
the tremendous progress being made by Vanderbilt's men's
and women's golf teams.
few weeks ago, the Commodore men won the Navy Invitational
in a 27-team field. Last year the women were ranked in the
Top 20 much of the season. Brandt Snedeker had a sizzling
round at a tournament. Meredith Ward or Nicki Cutler did
something special at this event.
until mid-September, all the events were far from Music
City. That changed with the inaugural Mason Rudolph Championship
at Vanderbilt's own Legends Club of Tennessee.
last-minute transportation complications couldn't keep 14
excellent women's teams and 12 men's teams from making their
way to the beautiful Franklin course for the only tournament
in the nation that could run both a men's and women's championship
Mother Nature cooperating beautifully, the scores were low
and the play was excellent.
are still talking about the women's team battle between
long-time power Ohio State, rated No. 14 in the year's first
poll, and the Commodores, rated 16th, who distanced themselves
from the field after the second round.
paced by Cutler's school record 68, broke its own team record
by eight shots in firing a four-under par composite score
to edge ahead of the Buckeyes after 36 holes.
of our team goals this year was to shoot under par as a
team for a round," Coach Martha Freitag explains. "It's
a good thing we set some very aggressive goals because we
accomplished this one on the first day of our season."
Meredith Ward, one of the few seniors on this youthful team,
recalled the "old days" of just three years ago.
I was a freshmen I hoped we would become competitive," the
Crystal Lake, Ill., product says. "We have come so far in
three years. Mallory Crosland (former teammate) called and
I was telling her how different things are than just two
years ago. We have so much potential and will only get better
Kirkland and I were talking about our freshmen year," Ward
continues. "We would have been ecstatic to have a day when
everyone broke 80. We broke 300 once in Memphis and you
would have thought we had won the NCAA championship. It's
different now. Each year I can see an increase in the amount
of work I've done. We have people pushing us. We always
have four strong scores. We have depth. We have 10 players
instead of six. I know if my play slips there is someone
waiting for a chance."
just a junior, exploded on the scene last year and is one
of the country's top collegians. The easy-going Coloradoan
knows there are great possibilities.
have good upperclassmen leadership and one thing we are
talking about right now is that we can raise our expectations,"
Cutler says. "We have a more complete team. The work we're
going to do on a daily basis is going to be the thing. When
we go to a tournament, we're going to play it one shot at
a time. If we do that, we'll play the way we want to play.
very fun to be on a competitive team; one that on a given
day is as good as anybody else in the country. Now we just
have to go out there and do it." It's not just the girls
who want to have fun, to borrow a pop music phrase. The
Commodore men are mixing a bit of the old with a lot of
the new and the results are also obvious.
junior Brandt Snedeker has already put in some torrid rounds
and he's off to a swift start this fall. He struggled to
a 40 over the front side but came back with a 33 on the
back for a mediocre 73, then followed up with 66-67 to place
(third) in the Rudolph Championships.
last two rounds were pretty good," Snedeker under-stated.
"I got off to a rough start and it ticked me off but the
rest of the tourney I was ok. I feel I left some shots out
there. I played the last the last round almost mistake free
but I had some bad breaks -- a few putts lip out -- or it
would have been a whole lot better."
running mate in the high octane world of sub-par has been
Mark Donnell, a freshman from Mobile who was one of the
nation's top three junior golfers a year ago. Donnell has
been sub-par in both tournaments to date.
different on the college level but about what I expected,"
Donnell says. "There are a lot more good golfers in every
tournament. Everyone here can play. I was ready for that.
Playing 36 holes is pretty tough. You don't even stop -
it's like one giant round. Now the good thing about that
is that if you are playing well you maintain your momentum.
I had that kind of day Monday (69-67). It can work both
ways. If you are struggling for 10 hours, that would be
tough. If you are in good shape, you can handle 36 straight
describes his game in this manner:
pretty good at a lot of things but not particularly great
at any one thing. I am pretty scrappy Hit the ball pretty
good a lot of the time and make putts when I need to. But
I think if someone were to watch me they wouldn't be overly
impressed with any one part of my game."
so much youthful talent, both Ward and Snedeker see one
of their roles as that of a mentor.
try to help freshmen out as I can," Snedeker says. "College
golf is more of a grind than junior golf. You play 36 holes
on the first day, you have to get used to that. You also
have to remember you are not playing for yourself but for
your team, so every shot counts. There is more pressure
in a team format. I try to show them what's going on and
tell them to go out and have fun. We need them to play well
and it's obviously a very talented group."
who plans to attend the WPGA Futures Tour Qualifying School
in November, has a slightly different point of view.
freshmen have to find out a lot of things for themselves,"
she says. "It's a matter of feeling comfortable with yourself.
It takes awhile to feel a balance between your academics,
your social life and your athletics. I think almost every
freshman goes through a period where they wonder 'why am
I here?' It's a matter of finding your niche. These freshmen
are working hard, hitting the books, this is a good class."
in all, it was hard to leave the Legends Club and not be
excited about both the present and the future of Vanderbilt
not after hearing Ward mention that a 10-under par team
round is one of the women's goals.
don't set goals that are unreachable," says Ward matter
Donnelly's comments also are inspiring.
liked the direction the program was moving in, which made
me come here in the end," he says. "With Press McPhaul coming
in, it looked like we were going to have a pretty good recruiting
class. Everything looks like it's getting better. I wanted
to be part of that.
have two more years with our team pretty much intact," Donnelly
continues. "We'll start getting our feet wet here and get
used to college golf. We think we have good talent, we need
to put it together on the same day. We've going to surprise
some people and I can't wait."