Mid-season awards: Top freshmen
Freshmen having an immediate impact on a lineup has become a recurring storyline in recent years. (See: Arizona State's Louise Stahle, 2005; Duke's__Amanda Blumenherst__, 2006; USC's__Jamie Lovemark__, 2007; Oklahoma State's__Rickie Fowler__ in 2008). With that, here's a review of those who were able to hit the ground running this fall during their first semester.
__FRESHMAN OF THE (MID)YEAR
Zahkai Brown, Colorado State
Ask Rams coach __Jamie Bermel__if he thought his 18-year-old rookie from Arvada, Colo., would have such an impressive start to his college career--one win, four top-10 finishes, a 70.08 average--and he cuts to the chase. "Not at all," Bermel admits. "I actually tried to redshirt him this year."
The logic actually was sound; Bermal already had all five starters returning from last year's Mountain West Conference championship team. Why have Brown potentially waste a year of eligibility while playing only a handful of times, if that?
Brown, however, wanted no part of sitting out a year. He was too competitive not to think he could crack the starting five and wanted the chance to play with his older brother, Zen, a CSU senior. So Bermel acquiesced, biting his tongue when the younger Brown finished eighth out of ninth in the first fall qualifier. When he did qualify for a tournament, Bermel walked with him every hole of each event to offer guidance and build confidence.
"He has some swagger to him," Bermel says. "In the beginning it might have rubbed the guys the wrong way. 'Who is this freshman coming in?' They were trying to protect their spots. But they gave him [their] stamp of approval with the way he played."
Indeed, Brown's performance has gone a long way to helping the Rams get off to a impressive collective start: four team titles in five tournaments.
Bermel's take on the best part of Brown's game? "He's a player with a short memory," says the coach. "He doesn't seem to get real concerned about his bad shots. He's real even keeled out there."
Of course it helps that his bad ones have been few and far between.
Honorable mention: Bud Cauley, Alabama
After a T-20 finish in his first tournament, the blue-chip recruit from Jacksonville, Fla., followed it up with three top-10 showings, finishing the fall with a 71.08 average.
Caroline Hedwall, Oklahoma State
It didn't take long to see why so many people thought the 19-year-old Swede, the 2007 European Amateur champion and 2008 British Ladies' Amateur runner-up, might contend not just for top freshman honors but top player overall. Less than two weeks in Stillwater, Hedwall won her first event, the Duramed NCAA Fall Preview, closing with a final-round 69 at Caves Valley GC outside Baltimore. She followed it up with relatively pedestrian showings at the Mason Rudolph (T-21) and Stanford Intercollegiate (T-24), but in between shot the best 72-hole score of the entire field at the Women's World Team Amateur Championship, helping Sweden win the Espirito Santo Trophy. Hedwall then snuck past her first-year competition by posting a T-5 at the Derby Invitational in her final fall college start to help her take a slight lead in the rookie standings through the first-half of 2008-09.
Making Hedwall's first few months on campus even more impressive is the fact it came during a semester in which the woman who recruited her and whom she expected to play for, OSU women's coach Laura Mathews, abruptly resigned last month, creating a potentially season-threatening distraction. Despite the turnover, Hedwall managed to hang tough, and looks like she could safely win another few tournaments come the spring.
Honorable mention: Lisa McCloskey, Pepperdine
Hard to think of a better way to start you college career than to break the all-time NCAA 54-hole scoring mark in your third start. Her 17-under 199 at last month's Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown contributes greatly to her 70.78 stroke average, and if not for a T-24 showing at Stanford, she likely would have earned the first chair among newcomers.__
Zahkei Brown, Colorado State
70.08 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (Del Walker), 4 top-10s
Bud Cauley, Alabama
71.08 avg., 4 starts, 2 top-fives, 3 top-nines
Johan de Beer, TCU
73.22 avg., 3 starts, co-medalist at The Prestige, 2 top-sixes
Derek Ernst, UNLV
70.0 avg., 3 starts, 2 top-fives
Morgan Hoffmann, Oklahoma State
73.9 avg., 2 starts, co-medalist at the Ping Preview
Joakim Mikkelsen, Baylor
71.64 avg., 5 starts, 2 top-10s, no start worse than T-17
Mina Harigae__, Duke
71.83 avg., 2 starts, T-5 at Stanford
Caroline Hedwall, Oklahoma State
71.17 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (Duramed NCAA Preview), 2 top-fives
Stephanie Kono, UCLA
71.67 avg., 3 starts, T-3 at Topy Cup, T-9 at Stanford
Lee Lopez, Long Beach State
71.83 avg., 4 starts, three top-seven finishes, four top-15s
Lisa McCloskey, Pepperdine
70.78 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Las Vegas), two top-10s
Jennifer Song, USC
71.44 avg., 3 starts, T-3 at Mason Rudolph, worst finish: T-14