Calm under pressure
Meadow doesn't allow any pressure to affect her game
ATHENS, Ga. – Alabama golfer Stephanie Meadow definitely seems to be comfortable under pressure, even at the 2013 Division I Women's Golf Championships.
It showed Wednesday when she shot a 5-under-par 67 at the par-72 University of Georgia Golf Course to take the individual lead halfway through the tournament. Wednesday’s bogey-free round came on the heels of a steady 3-under 69, which she posted in the opening round of the tournament on Tuesday, putting her two-day total at an 8-under 136.
One of Meadow’s playing partners Wednesday was Southern California’s Annie Park, who matched her 5-under 67 for the day and is only one shot behind Meadow after opening with a round of 70 on Tuesday.
“It was really solid,” Meadow said of her Wednesday round that included five birdies. “I was 5-under through 10 [holes]. I didn’t really make much on the back nine, but all around it was a really good day.
“It was fun to play with Annie. I started strong and she really came on to finish strong. It’s motivating to play with someone like that when you’re both doing well.”
Coach Mic Potter of Alabama wasn’t surprised by Meadow’s performance. In fact, he has come to expect it from Meadow, who entered the tournament leading the nation with a scoring average of 71.10, making her one of the individual favorites. After the first two rounds, that average has been lowered to 70.90, putting Meadow is great position to break her own school-record average of 72.15, set when she was a freshman in 2010-11.
Potter said Meadow owes her special edge mostly to her extraordinary wedge.
“I know she birdied 17 and 18, her eighth and ninth holes [of the day after beginning on No. 10]," Potter said. "That just validates how good of a wedge player she is, because you can’t reach either one of them and you still look at those as birdie holes for her because her distance on her wedge is always dialed in.”
“She didn’t make a bogey [Wednesday]. She misses a green, and she still gets it up and down. Not only that, if she misses a green, I think she might have as good a chance to make it from there as anywhere. She’s got a great short game, she’s a great wedge player and she’s very accurate.”
That’s not to say Meadow is slacking in the rest of her game. She already had a school-record 19 rounds of par or better and 10 rounds in the 60s before adding to those totals the last two days. She is now a total of 25-under in 31 rounds this season, 12 of which have been in the 60s.
Meadow also is attempting to win her third consecutive tournament, but again, that’s nothing new. She’s used to the pressure of battling for the lead in big tournaments, having helped clinch the Curtis Cup for Great Britain and Ireland and also winning the Ladies’ British Amateur Open last summer. The win in the British Amateur qualified Meadow for both the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2012 Ladies British Open (although she could only play in the U.S. Open because of a scheduling conflict).
Meadow said all the international experience she has as a player helps her tremendously when it comes to competing in the NCAA championship.
“It helps a lot,” Meadow said. “I’m comfortable around the lead. I’m comfortable in just about any and every situation. I can’t expect as much of myself. It’s just easier to go out and play.
“I do get some nerves. But here, it’s more of an excitement. I don’t really get nervous. This is why I work so hard, this is why our whole team works so hard – so there is no reason to be nervous.”
Potter said it is hard to measure how much the international experience helps Meadow, but he knows it does.
“You can’t get any worse pressure than in the Curtis Cup. And to be the only one out there with the last match on the final day, she’s done that,” Potter said. “And she’s really good at saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been here before, I’m really going to draw on these memories.’ She doesn’t really worry too much about the negative ones. She’s always got positive thoughts going through her head, based on what she’s accomplished in the past. Winning the British [Amateur] in match play is another great experience she can draw off of.”
Then there is that magical wedge of Meadow’s.
“She always knows, standing over the ball, whether it’s on the tee or on approaches, that she can get it up and down,” Potter said. “That’s a very comfortable feeling most of us don’t have when we’re standing out there hitting approaches. She’s got the whole package.”