Golfing Trio Blazed Trail To Success
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
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.
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
Kirkland has mentored the younger members
of the golf team but has also made good friends with other
“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.
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
“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
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.”