ARCANUM – After playing just two years of high school golf, Arcanum senior Madison O’Daniel will continue to play in college after committing to Indiana University East on Tuesday afternoon.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said O’Daniel, the daughter of Emily and Johnnie O’Daniel. “I just started playing my junior year, and I kind of progressed really well in it. It’s given me a lot of opportunities such as playing at IU East, and I’m glad I picked this school to play.”
O’Daniel said she felt comfortable with IU East coach Joe Griffin and her future Red Wolf teammates including freshman Haleigh Shaffer, an Arcanum graduate and former high school teammate of O’Daniel.
“(Coach Griffin) helped me financially,” O’Daniel said. “And I just really liked the team, and I already knew Haleigh Shaffer on the team that plays from Arcanum. I really liked the atmosphere, and I went and golfed with the girls, and I just really enjoyed the team and the atmosphere that they provided.”
In O’Daniel, Coach Griffin sees a lot of potential, especially considering she’s still relatively new to the sport of golf.
“She’s still pretty inexperienced, but what I saw when I was watching her play was her potential,” Griffin said. “She has a lot of potential to really be pretty good if she’ll just stick with it and be patient with herself.”
Arcanum girls golf coach Andrew Bryant saw that same potential almost immediately in O’Daniel.
“After just a couple weeks working with her I knew she had a natural athletic ability, and that’s when I told her, I said, ‘If you work hard enough – you’ve only got two years because you started as a junior’ … imagine if she would have started golf as a freshman,” Bryant said. “But I said, ‘If you work hard enough it’s not a pipe dream to be able to play golf in college,’ and I played golf in college so I have an idea of kind of what they’re looking for, and so I knew that, man, I knew that if she just worked hard enough and we filled in the gaps she could definitely do it, and here she is. It’s awesome. It’s great.”
During her first round of golf O’Daniel shot in the 80s for a nine-hole round, Bryant said, but by the end of the season she was one of the Trojans’ best golfers. This past fall she averaged 51 strokes per nine holes.
“That’s pretty amazing in two years,” Bryant said. “As long as she increases her work ethic and works the same, I believe she can do another big jump and be a mid-40s to low-40s golfer for Coach.”
Bryant sees O’Daniel’s natural athleticism as a big key to her success on the golf course.
“Golf has traditionally been packaged as the non-athletic sport, which is an absolute fallacy,” he said. “Just like in any sport, if you’ve got a natural athletic frame, a natural athletic movement against the ball or whatever then you’re going to be able to perform at the sport. So whenever I get a true athlete that comes in and someone that’s good at basketball, someone that’s good with baseball, someone that’s already got athletic movement, it comes into golf. I know that I can actually work on the swing.
“Anyone can play golf but to play it well requires athleticism, and she’s got the natural athletic ability, and we could build off that and we could really improve quick.”
During the offseason O’Daniel wants to work on simple corrections such as her grip and slowing down her swing. She hopes to compete for playing time right away with IU East and feels prepared for that after finishing her high school career strong, shooting an 18-hole round of 92 at PipeStone Golf Course in the Ohio High School Athletic Association district tournament.
“That kind of gave me a boost of confidence to be able to know that I can play at the college level,” she said. “I’m just going to keep practicing over the summer to definitely improve my score.”
The biggest thing O’Daniel, like most college golfers, needs to improve is her consistency, Griffin said.
“She’s got a nice swing, and she’s nice and tall,” he said. “She’s got a nice long, smooth swing so we get that settled down and get the consistency and that’s when you start seeing the scores really start dropping.”
In college O’Daniel plans to study secondary education with a minor in business. Her hope is to become a physics teacher.
“I want kids that want to keep playing,” Griffin said. “Good grades, want to keep playing, a good balance in life and that’s what I feel I’m getting with Madison.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.