By Brandon Judeh
Have you ever recognized someone’s face, but couldn’t necessarily remember their name or where they are from?
Poland native Maria Mancini often experiences that feeling when she is competing for Indiana University women’s golf team.
Mancini, who helped lead the Poland Bulldogs to four straight state tournament appearances (including a championship in 2008), says that playing college golf is much like junior golf, because a lot of the faces are the same.
“I see a lot of the same girls I would see playing junior golf over the years,” she said. “The only difference is that now we have a college name on our backs.”
Though Mancini may be experiencing d j vu, the sophomore says it’s nice to be squaring off against the same competition, but at a much higher level.
“It’s a very unique experience to be able to play on a big level, in the Big Ten, and recognize people I have been playing against for years,” Mancini said. “It’s very exciting.”
She and the Hoosiers got off to a hot start in their first match of the 2013-14 season as they finished second in the IU Fall Kickoff at Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind., earlier this month.
The former Ohio Junior PGA member shot a 73-76—149, good enough for second on the team and eighth overall in the tournament.
“It was a great way to start my sophomore year,” said Mancini, 19. “I worked really hard on my mental game this offseason and worked a lot on my swing with my golf coach, so it feels great to see that hard work paying off on the course.”
Despite the strong start, Mancini says she still needs to work on some things in order to get to the level she wants to play at week in and week out.
“Everyone’s game could always improve,” she said. “It’s an ongoing battle, but I specifically need to continue to work hard on my short game and putting.”
Though Indiana is a young team — with only one senior — the Hoosiers’ outlook for the season is looking good as they fight to finish in the top half of a crowded Big Ten Conference.
“Our team may be very young, but the chemistry we have together is great,” Mancini said. “We all get along so well and have a great time bonding with each other.”
Playing on a big stage is nothing new for Mancini as she experienced much success at Poland, where she became the first player in school history to be a part of four state tournament appearances.
“It prepared me to stay calm during pressure situations,” she said. “Whether it was sinking a winning putt or being a leader, it has prepared me well for the college level.”
The Hoosiers are coming off an 11th-place finish in the Mary Fossum Invitational last weekend. They’re competing this week in the 54-hole Golfweek Conference Challenge at Red Sky Golf Club in Wollcott, Colo.
The event began Monday and continues today and Wednesday.