It was already next-to-impossible to crown the best player in the decorated history of Furman women’s golf. Natalie Srinivasan ’20 isn’t helping.
Friday, Srinivasan capped a stellar senior season by winning the 2020 Golfweek ANNIKA Award, given annually since 2014 to the nation’s top female collegiate golfer. It marked her second national player of the year honor this season, coming on the heels of being named the 2020 Division I PING WGCA National Player of the Year.
Doing something nobody in a program that boasts one of Furman’s two national championships and has produced the likes of World Golf Hall of Famers Betsy King ’77 and Beth Daniel ’78 has ever done isn’t easy, which Srinivasan is still putting into perspective.
“I never thought that I would win national player of the year, and I am so grateful to have my name up with the best players to have played college golf,” Srinivasan, a Spartanburg native, said. “We have such amazing alumni – Beth, Betsy, Cindy (Davis ’84) and Dottie (Pepper ’87) – and it’s such an honor to be considered in the same category. Winning national player of the year is something I’ve always dreamed about, and it’s so cool to be able to represent Furman this way.”
Srinivasan becomes only the fifth Furman athlete in any sport to earn a national player of the year honor and first woman. She joins Frank Selvy ’54 (1954/basketball), Brad Faxon ’83 (1982/golf), Jeff Blankenship ’90 (1988/football) and Louis Ivory ’02 (2000/football) in accomplishing the feat.
The ANNIKA award, named in honor of golfing great Annika Sorenstam, is chosen by a vote of current players, coaches and members of the golf media and was announced live on The Golf Channel by Sorenstam. The winner receives an exemption to compete in the 2021 Evian Championship, one of the LPGA Tour’s five major tournaments.
Check out the announcement and Srinivasan’s interview below:
Srinivasan also became the seventh first-team All-American in Furman women’s golf history thanks to a year in which she won three tournaments, the most in the nation, and finished second by a stroke in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. The Darius Rucker Intercollegiate is considered the most competitive regular-season tournament in the country.
Srinivasan set a school record with a 70.8 stroke average and was the nation’s top-ranked player according to Golfstat when the team’s season was cut short in mid-March in response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
“What she accomplished prior to that was amazing,” Furman Athletics Director Jason Donnelly said.
Srinivasan’s 72.6 career stoke average is also a Furman record. A three-time All-Southern Conference selection and the 2018 SoCon Player of the Year, Srinivasan finished tied for 17th at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 and competed in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur.
“She’s one of the hardest workers that you’ll ever see … For her it’s all about school and golf, and her mental toughness and strength is as good as anybody’s,” Furman coach Jeff Hull said. “What happened this year is what happens to most good athletes when they keep working. They make mistakes, and they learn from their mistakes, and they keep growing.”
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Srinivasan is also an exceptional student, boasting a near-perfect grade-point average while majoring in health sciences. She was the recipient of the Winston Babb Memorial Award, which is given by the Furman Chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa to the woman in each class who has demonstrated the most outstanding qualities of leadership, scholarship and service to the university.
The accolades have softened the blow of seeing the season end so unexpectedly, but Srinivasan would rather be leading the Furman program to its 20th trip to the NCAA championships right about now. Missing the chance to see what she could have accomplished while playing so well will always sting.
“Nat is very calm and very strong mentally, and she said, ‘I felt like I could win nationals.’ She could have won the Augusta tournament as well, because she was and still is playing at such a high level,” Hull said. “That is what is so disappointing, just the opportunity that was lost.”
The NCAA’s decision to grant all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility means Srinivasan could come back for one more year at Furman, but she intends to pursue a professional career.
“Once our tournament (the Briar’s Creek Invitational scheduled for March 16-17 in Charleston), got cancelled, I started preparing myself for the worst, and it ended up happening,” she said. “But there are so many positives I can take from this year. I played really good golf. A lot of things I’ve been working on kind of came together. I know I’ll miss the girls on the team, because we’re very close, but it’s not like I can’t talk to them … It’s not the end of golf for me.”