Golfing Trio Blazed Trail To Success 4/12/02

Three Commodore golfers are nearing the end of their collegiate careers. Today’s triangular meet with Middle Tennessee State and Belmont marks the final Nashville competition for Vanderbilt seniors Annie Kirkland, Leticia Lanham and Meredith Ward.

It is indeed a unique threesome. The trio has literally watched the program change in virtually every way imaginable since arriving on campus four years ago.

The three were recruited by Coach Cindy Parrott and then played two years under Coach Page Dunlap as the team began to improve. Dunlap resigned when she married and turned over the reins to Martha Freitag.

Bingo! The team went from being ranked in the 50’s to the Top 20 a year ago. The team has spent this entire year in the Top 10 and for a while was even ranked No. 1 in the nation.

On top of that, the beautiful Legends Club of Tennessee was purchased by a friend of the University and given to Vanderbilt, instantly giving the Commodores one of the finest facilities in all of college golf.

For Kirkland, who played most of her tournament golf during her first two years, it won’t be the golf as much as her relationships that she is apt to remember.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a part of a major college athletic department,” Annie says. “You learn a lot about how things work, it has been neat to be a part of the family.”

Kirkland has mentored the younger members of the golf team but has also made good friends with other athletes.

“I go to a lot of baseball games,” she says. “but I have been very good friends with a number of members of the women’s soccer team, men’s golf team and so forth.”

Kirkland plans to attend graduate school, probably with a focus upon education, in a few years. This summer, however, she has plans that some will find unusual.

“I am going to be a wrangler on a ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado,” says the farm native from Seale, Ala. “I will actually be in charge of the horses on the ranch and am really looking forward to it. I had a friend do this last year and she didn’t want to come back.”

Kirkland admires the “commitment to athletics” she has found in McGugin Center.

“The education I’ve received has made my experience so worthwhile,” she says, “and Nashville is a great city. “

Lanham came to Music City from Long Beach, Calif., and was a fixture in the lineup her first three seasons. Last November, she underwent foot surgery that she had been postponing and says its took until February to feel normal.

Ticia has been a campus leader, representing her team on the Vanderbilt Student-Athlete Advisory Board and this year serving as the group’s President.

“I have had the opportunity to learn so much from this position,” Lanham says. “The Advisory boards from each member institution attend two meetings a year at the Southeastern Conference offices in Birmingham. It is very interesting to sit in meetings and discuss issues with a cross-section of people, some with very different views.”

Lanham will be a representative for the Student-Athlete board this May at the annual Southeastern Conference Meetings in Destin.

“I’ve had a great experience at Vanderbilt,” she says. “It’s been the greatest experience of my life.”

Lanham expects some day to return to school for a Masters in Business Administration degree. She may look in the Nashville area for a job in human resources or sales.

Ward is an academic all-SEC selection from Illinois and every now and then says she marvels at the changes in the program since her arrival.

“I still talk about it, even to players from other teams,” Ward says. “It is sooo different….the attitude is different, our abilities are different, our mindset is so much better. We really believe in ourselves, which has helped shape our success.”

Ward, who averages a 75 in 27 tournament rounds this season, thinks her mental game has improved since last year and says the same is probably true for the team.

“Last year, in the late tournaments, I think we might have been thinking about the end result first and got a little bit ahead of ourselves. Right now our attitude is to go play ‘Vanderbilt’ golf and not get caught up in scores, standings and all that. We believe if we focus on the process of playing golf, everything else will work out.”

Ward attended the Futures Tour Qualifying School last Thanksgiving and earned the highest playing rank, Class A, at that time. She will turn professional after the NCAA Tournament in May and will make her Futures Tour debut the first weekend in June.

Next year Meredith says she has two more fall classes to complete to earn her double major in Economics and Engineering Science. She plans to base out of Nashville and room with current teammate Nicki Cutler.

When her golf career is over, Ward thinks she is likely to pursue a career in economics, finances or – surprise, surprise – the world of golf!

“My Vanderbilt days have been the best four years of my life,” she says. “I tell people there is no way to replace the opportunities I’ve received, the people I’ve met and the great experiences I’ve had at Vanderbilt.”

Freitag is proud of her senior class.

“One of the reasons I enjoy coaching so much is the chance to work with high caliber student-athletes such as Annie, Ticia and Meredith,” the second-year Commodore coach says. “This group will always be special to me, having had to adjust to different coaches and a big jump in expectations from their freshmen to their senior years.

“Each of them has contributed to our success in different ways,” Freitag continues. “I’ve always said it takes more than your five tournament players to have a successful program.”


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)