Courtesy of the OSU Athletic Department
Never in the history of Ohio State has the university had the distinction of having both the men’s and women’s golf teams have a freshman win Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in the same season. Until now.
The Big Ten handed out their annual golf awards May 1, and among them were Kendall Prince and Grant Weaver, winning for women’s and men’s golf, respectively.
Weaver is only the second freshman men’s golfer in OSU history to win the award, the first time going to Chris Smith in 1988. Prince shares the honor with six other Buckeyes, the last being teammate Vicky Villanueva, who won in 2009.
“It’s a pretty big honor,” Prince said.
Making it even more special, she said, was getting the award despite the “up-and-down roller coaster of health issues” she’s had this year.
Prince found out she has an autoimmune disorder affecting her liver that at least once led to her being rushed to the hospital. But with consultation from her doctors, she was able to recover and again focus on golf.
“She’s a real tough kid, no doubt about it,” said women’s coach Therese Hession. “She’s very driven … so there’s not going to be too much that gets in her way. She’ll come back as quick as possible from all these illnesses and injuries … more than most kids because she’s very committed to making her goals.”
Compounded on top of her autoimmune disorder, she had emergency surgery on her appendix the day before the Big Ten Championship. That came two weeks ago after finishing a career-best third overall in the field in the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational. Due to missing the Big Ten Championship, Hession said it dropped her one-tenth of a point from making first-team All-Big Ten. The appendectomy is also keeping her from playing in the first three rounds of the NCAA Central Regionals taking place Thursday through Saturday in Columbus.
Despite all of the setbacks, Prince still made second-team All-Big Ten along with being named Freshman of the Year. She was the top finisher on the team three times, tying junior Amy Meier a fourth time. She averaged a 75 (per 18 holes) for the year, was under par four times and shot in the 60’s twice, including a career-best 67. That score came on her second set of 18 holes, where she played a total of 36 holes in one day during the Lady Northern Invitational in French Lick, Ind.
She said it’s hard to imagine that at one point, she preferred soccer over golf.
“I was huge into other sports,” Prince said. “I always thought I was going to play soccer (in college) until my sophomore year (in high school), and I switched my focus (to golf).”
And when she committed to OSU, there was one thing on her mind.
“Once I came in here, I was like, ‘That’s my goal, to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year,” she said.
Although feeling honored for his achievement, Weaver said he didn’t even know the award existed until men’s coach Donnie Darr told him on the day the awards were announced.
“I never really thought about it. It came as a complete surprise,” Weaver said.
That might sound flippant, but it’s quite the opposite for the true freshman from Waynedale High School in Wooster, Ohio. He said his focus is more about teamwork rather than concentrating on how well he performs individually, attributing his humble attitude to his parents.
“They always told me not to be conceited,” Weaver said. “Also, I played team golf in high school, so I’ve had the joys of winning as a team and it’s something that I want to continue and experience again. It’s a lot more fun when you’re playing as a team.”
Weaver’s humility comes as no surprise to Darr.
“He’s very, very mature for his age (and) controls his emotions very well, which is a huge asset for a college player, because a lot of college guys struggle with that part of their game,” Darr said.
Weaver has helped the men’s team to a 67-49-2 record this year and an appearance in the NCAA regionals May 17-19 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He averaged a score of 75 (per 18 holes) for the season, including a career-best 69 on the first day of the FAU Spring Break Championship on March 23 in Lake Worth, Fla.
Despite playing in junior golf tournaments since he was nine years old, Weaver said he never had a full-time instructor, just occasional lessons “here and there.” And he still wouldn’t give himself full credit for what he’s achieved this year.
“I think that if he just continues to do what he has done and continues to work on the fundamental things … then he’s going to have great success,” Darr said.