Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Srinivasan racks up during trophy season

Furman's Natalie Srinivasan finished this women's golf season
as the nation's No. 1-ranked player. Photo courtesy of Furman
While the Furman women's golf spring season lasted all of three weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Natalie Srinivasan's trophy season has gone on now for three months. The senior and former Dorman High standout has racked up plenty of hardware since the Paladins' season came to abrupt end following the second tournament of the spring in early March.

In what turned out to be her final collegiate tournament, Srinivasan finished one shot back in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate at Hilton Head Island. The runner-up finish was a rare one considering that Srinivasan won half of Furman's six other tournaments in the full 2019-20 season. Her victories were highlighted by a dominant performance in the other spring tournament, the Moon Golf Invitational in Melbourne, Fla. in February. After shooting a 68 in round two, Srinivasan fired a 67 in the final round to finish at 10-under for a four-stroke win over teammate and fellow Spartanburg native, Anna Morgan.

"This was a very solid start to the spring," Furman coach Jeff Hull said afterwards. "Natalie established herself as one of the best players in the country with a solid win."

Hull's thought was proven right a month later. Srinivasan finished as the No. 1-ranked women's collegiate golfer in the country by Golfstat, which an adjusted scoring average of 70.51. She had a Southern Conference-best 70.78 stroke average over 18 rounds this season, and finished with a 72.6 stroke average over 118 rounds in her career. In the storied history of Furman women's golf, no Paladin has ever had a lower single-season average or career average.

Then the accolades came rolling in:
  • April 15 - Srinivasan receives the Winston Babb Memorial Award, which is given by the Furman chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa to the woman in each class who's demonstrated the most outstanding qualities of leadership.
  • April 21 - Srinivasan is the seventh Furman women's golfer to earn first team All-America honors and the first since 1998.
  • April 24 - Srinivasan becomes Furman's first female athlete to earn a national player of the year honor with the PING WGCA Player of the Year award, which has gone to the top women's golfer in the country each year since 1987. Srinivasan is the the fifth Paladin to earn a national player of the year, joining Frank Selvy (men's basketball in 1954), Brad Faxon (men's golf in 1982), Jeff Blankenship (football in 1988) and Louis Ivory (football in 2000).
  • May 8 - Srinivasan earns the Golfweek ANNIKA award, which is named in honor of Annika Sorenstam and has been presented annually to the nation's top female collegiate golfer since 2014. Votes of current players, coaches and media determine the winner, who receives an exemption to compete in the 2021 Evian Championship on the LPGA Tour.
  • May 15 - Srinivasan collects the inaugural Juli Inkster Senior award. This goes to the highest-ranked women's collegiate golfer among seniors per Golfstat and Golfweek Sagarin ratings. As the award winner, Srinivasan receives a sponsor exemption to compete at the next Cambia Portland Classic and a two-day mentorship retreat with Inkster.
  • June 17 - Srinivasan receives SoCon Female Athlete of the Year honors. She's the ninth Paladin to earn the award and first golfer since Caroline Peek in 1994.
  • June 24 - Srinivasan is one of 62 Paladins named to the SoCon's Spring Academic All-Conference team. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in health sciences and a 3.90 grade point average.
"The awards have been a nice little distraction from everything going on and not being able to finish the semester," Srinivasan said. "Annika is such a great role model and is basically the Tiger Woods of women's golf. The ANNIKA award is like the Heisman trophy for women's golf and for my name to be on her award is just crazy. I never dreamed I'd be a finalist, let alone win the thing."

The SoCon's top honor is extra meaningful for Srinivasan because it encompasses more than just her athletic ability. While being the best golfer in the country certainly was a huge factor, so were her academics and contributions to the community. Srinivasan has done volunteer work with Prisma Children's Hospital and the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Association.

There could be quite a debate as to what Srinivasan's biggest accomplishment at Furman has been. Is it rewriting a record book filled with names like Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Dottie Pepper, or posting 3.9 GPA in a school as academically prestigious as Furman? Srinivasan credited her success in both to her strict focus on both, and added that her high school experience was an excellent primer.

"Dorman has some of the best teachers. I had a great experience there and it really helped me prepare," Srinivasan said. "Furman is tough and they expect a lot out of you, but it wasn't something that I had never experienced before or wasn't ready for.
"Basically, golf and school are the only two things I did (at Furman). ... Once I would get done with class, I normally would pack my lunch and head over to golf and get started. When the work was done there, you'd eat dinner and hunker down and settle in for school. ... I knew it was going to take a lot of commitment and discipline to succeed at both. I was able to kind of learn how from my older teammates who were incredibly amazing role models for me."

Out of all the first-place finishes and awards, Srinivasan said her biggest memory from her Furman golf career probably goes back three years. While she posted the fourth-highest stroke average on the team as a freshman that season, she topped every other player in the conference in winning the 2017 SoCon Championship.

She followed up that medalist showing at the SoCon, with a final round 68 for a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Regional in Lubbock, Texas.

"I believe our team was ranked as high as No. 2 that year in the spring. We had an amazing team. A senior that year, Taylor Totland, really taught me a lot and pushed me," Srinivasan said. "As a freshman, you don't really think about winning conference. You just play and see what happens. That was really important to my confidence."

The pandemic this year robbed her of a final chance at another SoCon title and possibly an NCAA championship. It also wiped out this year's Augusta National Women's Amateur, which Srinivasan finished 17th at in last year's inaugural event.

Srinivasan has kept everything in a healthy perspective. As a golfer, she competes in one of the few sports that has been able to return within the confines of social distancing concerns. She's now focused on her pro career.

"I'm looking to start the week of July 20 with an LPGA event I'm trying to get into. Annika's (Sorenstam) been very gracious to try to get me into some events as has Juli (Inkster)," Srinivasan said. "I'm looking to get into those, but those are just bonuses. If I don't, I'll play on the Symettra (previously known as LPGA Futures Tour) when I can play. Their schedule is already a little cut and limited. Hopefully events play, but you just never know with what's going on."

No comments:

Post a Comment