Nova Southeastern is lighting up the DII women's golf circuit. The Sharks are not simply winners of six in a row, they have beaten some hefty competition along the way. They have done so by an average 12.3-stroke margin, so not only is NSU winning, it is doing so comfortably.
This is a unique bunch. The Sharks "Big 4" have been together for at least three years, with a pair of seniors looking for big things in their final run. Let's go beyond the scorecard and take a look at the Sharks scorching hot squad.
Red hot and highly-ranked
The current team has the lowest scoring average of any Nova Southeastern women’s golf team in history on Par 3s, 4s, and 5s. That is quite the impressive statement considering the Sharks won the championship every year from 2009 to 2012, sandwiched between two national runner-up campaigns.
IN A ROW!— NSU Golf (@NSU_MWGolf) March 27, 2018
Sophie Madden and Jamie Freedman finish 1-2 to lead No. 1 NSU to the Barry U Invitational title! pic.twitter.com/3pDLVN8LBo
Thanks to the hot start, four of the Sharks' individuals are ranked in the top 20. Jamie Freedman is No. 2, Michelle Ruiz is No. 6, Sophie Madden is No. 12 and Janelle Johnson is No. 18. Freshman Sofia Garcia Austt finds her way into the top 100, sitting at No. 87.
Freedman heads to Arnold Palmer Cup
The Arnold Palmer Cup is a showcase of the world's best collegiate golfers. This year, it heads to the Evian Resort Golf Club in France for the Ryder Cup-style competition.
Way to Go @jamie_freedman on being selected to the 2018 USA @ArnoldPalmerCup. What a privilege & honor this is & #SharkNation could not be happier or prouder for you!!! #SharkPride #ArnoldPalmerCup #ArniesArmy pic.twitter.com/fFwvFAAhp9— NSU Golf (@NSU_MWGolf) March 15, 2018
In a sea of Division I male and female golfers, Nova Southeastern's Jamie Freedman is the lone DII men's or women's golf representative heading to Europe for the 2018 Arnold Palmer Cup. Freedman has made seven starts this season and has finished in the top-10 in six of them. She was an individual medalist in the NCAA DII National Preview to kick the season off in September. There is a reason Freedman is ranked No. 2 in DII women's golf, and her success was noted by the selection committee.
Jamie Freedman has crossed paths with a few of her teammates long before Nova Southeastern. She was paired with fellow senior Michelle Ruiz in a junior event at Heron Bay in 2014. The two were tied on the final day until Freedman pulled away with a 2-under to win the event. Shortly after, Ruiz, who hails from Canada, committed to NSU.
Three years prior, Jamie Freedman played in a US Kids event at Pinehurst. Shooting a 3-under that day, a young girl from the United Kingdom rose victorious in the Girls 14 division. That girl was Sophie Madden. Now teammates, the two did not even know who each other were that day.
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A tradition like no other
Every good winning run needs a little superstition. Or three.
The team loves to eat Shark Bites when they are on the course, but on Sundays, it is always the same thing. The Sharks always chomp on Publix sandwiches before the Sunday practice round. Tiger Woods may have his Sunday reds, but the Sharks have to have their Sunday subs.
Coach Wall also started bringing what she calls “Happy Signs” in the spring of last season. She began placing them on the golf carts and the team has rolled off 10-of-13 wins since.
Each member of the team keeps a little piece of rope in their yardage book. It serves as a reminder to “hold the rope” for your teammates and never let go. That rope seems to be stronger than ever in 2018.
Coach Wall’s legacy
Heather Wall has quite the resumé in the Sunshine State Conference. Before being named the Sharks’ head coach in 2016, she was an SSC Player of the Year in 2009. That, however, was not for Nova Southeastern, but for rival Florida Southern. During that time, Wall was often paired with Nova Southeastern’s Maria Garcia Austt. Now, Wall coaches her former rival’s younger sister, Sofia Garcia Austt.
While Wall has a highly-decorated player resumé and is now one of the more respected coaches in DII, she is not so good with the golf cart. She admittedly has no navigation skills and pulls at least five U-turns per tournament, still trying to figure out how to park the cart straight. As long as she continues to get her Sharks to hit it straight, the golf cart mastery can wait.