If all goes as expected, more than 400 hundred swings, chip shots and putts await Marina Alex in the final two golf tournaments of her collegiate career.
However, don’t expect pressure to linger with each shot. Not when Alex knows what lies ahead.
The Vanderbilt senior leads the Commodores into the NCAA Central Regional, which runs Thursday through Saturday at the Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. The top eight teams at the 24-team regional advance to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship on May 22-25 at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin. The top two golfers not associated with the eight qualifying teams will also advance.
“This is not really the end for me. There is a lot to look forward to,” Alex said. “These next events are important but they’re not the end of the world. I think it helps put things in perspective. Not too much pressure on myself, just go out and try to keep making the progress I’ve been making this year.”
She plans to turn professional and play on the LPGA Futures Tour this summer. She’ll then go through Q-School in the fall. If she advances out of the sectional qualifying tournament and is one of the top 20 finishers at the final qualifying tournament she will receive full membership to join the LPGA Tour in 2013.
“It has always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Alex said.
Alex, a native of Wayne, N.J., put together an impressive résumé over the last three-plus seasons. She has reached the national tournament every season. In 2010, as a sophomore, she won the Southeastern Conference tournament and was named the league’s top player. She tied for 21st at the national tournament and was named a first-team All-American by the National Golf Coaches Association.
She struggled to match that success as a junior, though. Her stroke average dipped two strokes to 73.7, which still led the team, she tied for 24th at the SEC Tournament and battled inconsistency issues with her swing.
This season, Alex corrected her mechanics and again pushed to the front of the pack. Her stroke average is down to 72.7 and she has four top-five finishes. Last month, she just missed winning her second SEC tournament crown, placing second. She was named the SEC’s Player of the Year for the second time last week.
The success contributes to a more confident Alex, who believes this year reaffirmed she was ready to turn pro.
“After last year I wasn’t quite sure,” Alex said. “It was a tough year and I didn’t know whether it was going to come back or what the case was. But I’m really excited about it and I’m 100 percent ready to do this now.”
• Vanderbilt senior Adam Hofmann was invited Monday to compete in the NCAA Regional individual men’s golf tournament at Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., May 17-19.
It is his second straight appearance in an NCAA regional. Hofmann led the Commodores with a 73.2 stroke average.