Commodore Golfers Shine
for Locals (As appeared in the Flagship)
For 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.
A 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.
But 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.
Even 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 simultaneously.
With Mother Nature cooperating
beautifully, the scores were low and the play was excellent.
People 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.
"One 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."
Senior Meredith Ward, one of
the few seniors on this youthful team, recalled the "old
days" of just three years ago.
"When 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 from here."
"Annie 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."
Cutler, 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.
"We 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.
It's 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.
Nashville 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
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."
Snedeker's 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.
"It's 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 holes.
Donnell describes his game
in this manner:
"I'm 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."
With so much youthful talent,
both Ward and Snedeker see one of their roles as that of
"I 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."
Ward, who plans to attend the
WPGA Futures Tour Qualifying School in November, has a slightly
different point of view.
"The 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."
All in all, it was hard to
leave the Legends Club and not be excited about both the
present and the future of Vanderbilt golf.
Certainly not after hearing
Ward mention that a 10-under par team round is one of the
"We don't set goals that are
unreachable," says Ward matter of factly.
And Donnelly's comments also
"I 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.
"We 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."