By Sam Draut–
The age-old mantra in golf,“drive for show, putt for dough” may still be said around golf courses, but freshman Olivia Cason added some flare to her short game last weekend at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
Posting one of the best scores for a freshman in Louisville history, Cason knocked in a fifty-foot putt on her way to four-under-par for the tournament, tying her for fifth in the 90 player field.
In her second collegiate tournament, the Owensboro Catholic product finished with 14 birdies and the best three round score for Louisville since 2014.
“I was mentally in a good place throughout the entire tournament, so that helped me to stay steady and play solid golf,” Cason said.
After posting a 10-over-par good for thirteenth in opening tournament of the season in Atlanta, Georgia three weeks ago, Cason got going early on in the Mason Rudolph Championship.
She birdied three off the first seven holes to begin the tournament on Friday.
“It was all really fun because we were there as a team, all the girls were rooting for you to play well. That made me feel at ease coming up to the first tee,” Cason said. “When I went out and started playing I didn’t have as many nerves as I did the first time because I had already done it once.”
Cason birdied her first par-three and picked up momentum through the first nine-holes.
“I ended up birding all the par-three’s on the first nine which was a big confidence booster,” Cason said.
She played the par-three’s better than anyone else in the field on Friday, averaging 2.4 shots on the shorter holes.
Cason walked off the course Friday tied for fourth after shooting a 69, which was three-under-par.
But going into Saturday, Cason knew she had to refocus and put together another good round of golf.
“Before the second round, my coaches were telling me ‘You played well yesterday, don’t expect the same thing to happen again. You can shoot well, but be patient and take it shot by shot,’” Cason said.
Delivering an equally impressive round on Saturday, Cason finished two-under-par, putting her at five-under-par through two rounds.
Cason’s quietly consistent play through the first two rounds of the tournament changed entirely during the final round on Sunday.
“It was a roller coaster. I started off through four holes one under, but I get on the fifth hole and I triple (bogey) it,” Cason said. “It is really hard to come back from a triple (bogey), but I knew there was nothing I could do about it now except to move forward.”
Cason did move forward and picked up momentum on the next hole.
“We had a par five coming up next, and it was a par five that you could hit in two. So I had a good drive down the middle, and then I went for it because I had to make up for the triple (bogey),” Cason said. “I missed it short but chipped up and made birdie from there.”
Bouncing back from her triple bogey, Cason became in a constant search for birdies.
Before turning to the final nine holes of the tournament, Cason faced a downhill par-three 190 yards out.
With the pin in the back right corner of the green, Cason accounted for the wind and played her tee shot like she would from 180 yards out.
But her tee shot landed in the front left of the green, far from the pin.
Facing a fifty-foot putt, Cason was moments away from the turning point of her tournament.
“I made my line,” Cason said. “I said ‘I’m going to be confident and hit it close or I am going to make it or I’m going to miss it, whatever happens, happens.’”
Fifty feet and a few moments later, the ball dropped into the hole.
“I looked up in disbelief, and there was camera guy right there, and what a perfect moment to hit this putt,” Cason said. “So coming off of that going into the back nine gave me a lot of momentum.”
After fighting through one of the craziest rounds of golf she had ever played, Cason walked off the course on Sunday afternoon tied for fifth.
Cason’s early success in her collegiate career is a product of diligent work over the past year to prepare for the Division-I level of golf.
“This past year I have been working with my swing coach on making more solid contact consistently,” Cason said. “And then I have gotten to play in some national tournaments called the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), those are high level tournaments where the elite level golfers play in.”
While her high school golf practices were more lenient and tournaments weren’t as serious, Cason’s exposure to national tournaments over the summer helped to get her in the right mindset.
“My last junior tournament this past summer was an AJGA tournament in Oak Ridge, Tennessee,” Cason said. “I ended up winning that tournament. I shot nine under over three days.”
Cason said winning her final tournament before going to college was a big confidence booster for her.
The transition to college can be difficult for any freshman, but Cason has five other freshmen on the team to share the experience with.
“What has been so helpful is we have such a big freshman class. It has made the transition so much easier,” Cason said. “We have so many people coming in for us, it helps to calm our nerves when we have so many people going to tournaments.”
She admitted that the new experience can be overwhelming at times, but she always has a group to talk with athletes who are going through the exact same thing.
Cason has already qualified for the Tar Heel Invitational, which is the next tournament on the schedule. The three-round tournament will be played in Chapel Hill, North Carolina from Oct. 9-11. Cason and teammates have begun to prepare for the tournament.
“Some of the other girls and I have worked on some of the shots that we might see there,” Cason said. “We have worked on specific yardages we might see on holes. We’re trying to get ready for the course.”
Even after a tremendous start to her freshman campaign, Cason wants to continue to develop her mental toughness, but if she keeps dropping fifty-foot putts, she will put on a show as well.