MU golfer matures after missing last year's Big 12 Tournament

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Missouri sophomore Hannah Lovelock practices her putting during the last practice of the fall season on Friday. Lovelock began playing golf as a child in England with her family and has never looked back, even when that brought her to mid-Missouri. "I love my team and I love my coaches and I love this place, I can't imagine life without it," Lovelock said.

COLUMBIA — Tears rolled down from Hannah Lovelock’s eyes last April. Then a freshman, the MU golfer could not believe she would have to miss out on the biggest tournament of the season.

Lovelock had missed too many of one of her classes last spring without excused absences. One more absence, excused or not, would result in the failing of the class. There would be no Big 12 Tournament for Lovelock.

“I called my mom and dad up crying, saying ‘Oh, I can’t believe this is happening to me,’” Lovelock said. “They were like, ‘Pick up, move on, give one of the other girls a chance and cheer for them. Don’t look back.’ I didn’t.”

Lovelock chose to leave her hometown of Surrey, England, and come to Missouri in the fall of 2008 because she felt attending MU and being a member of the golf team was her best opportunity to grow as both a person and a golfer. As she looks back, Lovelock is embarrassed by the way she handled certain situations throughout the 2008-2009 season, especially taking criticism.

Part of the difficulty stemmed from being so far away from home. Lovelock, a continent away, was homesick.

“I’m 5,000 miles away from home,” Lovelock said. “If they would criticize me last year, I would tell them I would just go home. There was no point.”

Lovelock rolled her eyes at herself with a guilty smile while talking about her lack of maturity last year. She said she would tell those criticizing her to simply get out of her face in the past; today, she takes it in stride.

Coach Stephanie Priesmeyer said Lovelock would get her feelings hurt last season when Priesmeyer would give constructive criticism or get on her about improving her grades.

“She (Lovelock) got really upset with me and was frustrated,” Priesmeyer said. “I started laughing, and I was like, ‘I’m not mad at you. This is my job.’”

Since ending the 2008-2009 season with a low point, missing the Big 12 Tournament, Priesmeyer said she has seen a noticeable improvement in her golfer’s attitude. She has been impressed with the sophomore’s results on the course, in the weight room and in the classroom.

Lovelock’s physical strength has improved through her hard work with her strength coach. That, along with putting in extra time to improve her short game, has Lovelock closing in on the team’s No. 1 ranking. Her 75.4 round average is right behind the top two golfers on the depth chart.

After finishing ninth overall in the individual standings of the Las Vegas Tournament last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Lovelock entered this week’s Challenge at Onion Creek in Austin, Texas, with an opportunity to finish the fall schedule as MU’s No. 1 golfer. Priesmeyer said she is impressed.

“She (Lovelock) could leap frog and be the No. 1 by the end of the season,” Priesmeyer said. “For being a sophomore, that’s really promising.”

Both Julia Potter and Michelle Morgan, the current top two golfers on the MU depth chart, are seniors. Whereas Lovelock has looked to Potter and Morgan as role models the past couple of seasons, she knows she will need to fill the role model role once they graduate.

Lovelock has already used the experiences from her freshman year to help the new freshmen. Whenever they are discouraged, Lovelock is there to pick them up. She, better than most, is able to relate. She said she doesn’t want anybody else to have to deal with the disappointment she dealt with missing the Big 12 Tournament.

“I used to be like if my grades suck, ‘I give up, I give up,’” Lovelock said. “Now I’m like, ‘Come on, come on.’ If some of the freshmen struggle, I’m like, ‘Come on you guys.’ One of my aims this year was to set an example for the freshmen.”

As Lovelock continues to transition from immature freshman to a leader for the Tigers, she knows not everything will always work out perfectly. But she no longer threatens to quit, no longer threatens to go home. On each of her golf balls she inscribed “N.E.P.L.A.C.” meaning “No Excuses Play Like a Champion.” She is ready and excited to step up.

“I just have to really set a pace and prove myself to everyone I can,” Lovelock said.

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