PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

USC's Mid-Season reinforcement

January 17, 2007

In college golf circles, the name Belén Mozo has become intriguingly renowned, the intriguing part being that the 18-year-old Spaniard has yet to play a round in NCAA competition. It’s the promise Mozo brings—she is the reigning British Ladies and British Girls champion—that leaves so many anxiously awaiting her arrival, particularly those on the campus of the University of Southern California, where Mozo enrolled this month and is set to join a team ranked 13th in the final fall Golf World college coaches' poll.

I called USC coach Andrea Gaston last week 1) to confirm that Mozo did arrive in Los Angeles as expected and 2) to inquire about how Mozo might acclimate to the team considering she is coming in during the middle of the season.

Indeed, Mozo arrived in SoCal as scheduled and has started classes. (Don’t joke … the most nervous I’ve seen some college coaches is in the few days before an international golfer is suppose to come stateside, the fear that a last-minute change of mind might wreck future plans. I know of one assistant who was thisclose to flying to Europe just to make sure a prized recruit got on his scheduled flight.)

As for how she might fit in having not been part of the squad the first half of the season, Gaston was quick to note that Mozo knows many of the current Lady Trojans from an earlier visit and has played with and against many in Europe previously. “I feel she’s going to adapt very well,” Gaston said. “She’s a very outgoing person and so getting along with her teammates isn’t a major concern. It’s more merely making adjustments to being in a new place.”

Suffice it to say, Gaston has some experience in bringing in international players in mid-season. In 1998 she welcomed Jennifer Rosales, who proceeded to win the NCAA title that spring. In 2005 Dewi-Claire Schreefel arrived from the Netherlands and a year later also had a national championship victory on her resume. Without trying to put pressure on Mozo, Gaston believes she could have the same type of results once she settles into the States.

“She knows how to win tournaments,” Gaston said. “What I like about her game is she’s a feel player who can adjust her swing on the fly. She’s kind of like Jennifer from that standpoint. She doesn’t need a lot of instruction and can really rely on herself.”

Will Mozo live up to all the hype? My gut says yes. For one, she has legitimate game. Secondly, she has an advantage in the fact that USC’s first event of the spring is the Regional Challenge at Palos Verdes GC, 20 miles south of LA. Coincidentally, the facility is one that the team practices at. Considering how treacherous the greens are, getting a sneak peak will help the newcomer feel more certain, allowing her to likely get off on a strong foot.

With a little confidence, it’s my guess she’ll settle in and make it seem like she’s been with the team since September. In the process, she might become a littel less intriguing but likely more renowned.