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The Orion

Golfer sets school record with career-best effort

Junior Wildcat Women's Golfer Dani O'Keefe chips the ball during practice at Bidwell Golf Course MOnday October 27, 2014. Photo credit: John Domogma

Achieving consistency in any athletic endeavor is tough, and maybe even more so in golf. Not too tough, though, for Dani O’Keefe.

O’Keefe, a junior Chico State golfer, had a career-best and program record performance Oct. 4-5 at Sunriver Resort’s Meadows golf course in Sunriver, Oregon. The golfer posted a 54-hole score of 1-over-par 214, placing her at a third overall individual finish in the 61-player field. O’Keefe’s efforts set a new school record for a three-round score.

O’Keefe got better as the weekend progressed, recording her best score Sunday. She had three birdies and 14 pars to put up a career best 2-under-par 69. O’Keefe now has seven top-10 tournament finishes to her name and a 79.35 stroke average per round for her Wildcat career.

“I felt pretty good during my first round,” O’Keefe said. “I felt focused and was in a pretty good mind state. I gave myself a lot of good birdie opportunities, which helped keep my spirits up after a couple of bad holes. By the second round, I started to feel a little mentally drained, but I pushed my way through and put up a pretty decent round.”

She said she went into autopilot Sunday, which enabled her to finish with 11 straight pars. Coach Nick Green helped O’Keefe focus when her nerves creeped in while going into the final three holes.

“I was really proud of myself to shoot in the ’60s for the first time in a collegiate event,” she said. “I was also pretty excited, (and so was my team).”

O’Keefe was introduced to golf at a young age by her father, who is the head golf professional at Rancho Maria Golf Club in Santa Maria.

“My dad is and always has been my biggest fan,” O’Keefe said. “He has taught me everything I know about the game leading up to my college experience. He picked me up when I failed and encouraged me to push through and work hard.”

With the conclusion of the Sonoma State tournament Oct. 21, the team begins a lengthy winter hiatus, returning to competition in late February. The team finished in third place overall, and O’Keefe finished with another third place individually.

O’Keefe said she will keep playing plenty of golf on her own to stay sharp during the time off.

“I plan on working on my putting,” she said. “I have improved my putting tremendously over the past few months, but there is always room for improvement. Playing a lot of rounds of golf is how I really improve my game, so that’s what I plan on doing this winter.”

Prior to her performance in Oregon, O’Keefe was disqualified due to a number error on her scorecard at the Western New Mexico Fall Intercollegiate tournament. However, she showed true resilience and confidence in bouncing back with her lowest career score.

“As funny as it sounds, I’m so happy I was disqualified because it taught me a very important lesson,” O’Keefe said. “And I was able to prove to myself the kind of person and golfer that I am and that I really am capable playing great golf.”

She said Green was instrumental in helping her overcome the shock and disappointment of her disqualification.

“I’ve talked a lot about emotional stability with her — not being too excited or too down when things are good or bad,” Green said. “Dani, to her credit, has done a very good job over the last two tournaments of showing me that she’s capable of being a leader on this team. Dani is a very hard worker, she takes it seriously. She was also very close to being an academic all-American last year. She’s the kind of player I like to have on my program.”

Green said that if O’Keefe’s disqualified score at the Western New Mexico Fall Intercollegiate tournament had counted, she would have a season stroke average of approximately 76.

“She’s on pace to be an all-American with that scoring average,” he said.

Nick Reddy can be reached at [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.

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