Oct. 1, 2009
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2009-10 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Alison Cavanaugh had a bright future in volleyball — until she blew out two knees in high school to end any hope of taking that sport to the next level. She is an athlete, so the question that puzzled her was what game could she play that was stress-free on her knees?
Cavanaugh looked to the rolling greens and sand traps next to her home in Littleton, Colo.
“I grew up by a golf course, so I have known how to play since I was really little,” Cavanaugh said. “But growing up I played every other sport, too. I had a career-ending injury in volleyball during high school, so I wondered what other sport could I play that is easier on the body? Then I started playing competitive golf.”
It was not the bump, pass, assist or ace that brought Cavanaugh to the University of Iowa — it was her driver, irons, and putter that now have her wearing a Hawkeye polo and playing at the highest level of NCAA competition.
Cavanaugh knew on her recruiting trip that Iowa would be a great place to go to school for many reasons.
“I chose Iowa because it was the best fit academically, athletically and socially,” said Cavanaugh, a finance major. “The business school was a big attraction to me. My parents were from the Midwest, so they encouraged me to look at Iowa, and after I came on my recruiting visit, I just knew that it was such a neat place and a quintessential college town. It has so much school spirit and after I went to a football game, I knew it was a special place.”
The beginning of Cavanaugh’s Hawkeye career was different than most freshman student-athletes because she was the only first-year student-athlete on the team. She had to figure out things for herself, like balancing academics with golf. She did have someone to confide in, that being UI head coach, Kelly Crawford, who was also in her first year at Iowa.
“Coach Crawford is great — she is really energetic and motivating,” Cavanaugh said. “She came in the same year I did, so we were kind of in the same boat, figuring it out together. She has been a huge asset to the program, especially because she was a good player herself, so we really respect that and all of the knowledge that she brings to the table.”
“Alison is the first player that I met (at Iowa) and within a few minutes of chatting with her, I just thought `we are going to have a good time’,” Crawford said. “She has a great sense of humor and is a really neat person.”
“I chose Iowa because it was the best fit academically, athletically and socially. The business school was a big attraction to me. My parents were from the Midwest, so they encouraged me to look at Iowa, and after I came on my recruiting visit, I just knew that it was such a neat place and a quintessential college town. It has so much school spirit and after I went to a football game, I knew it was a special place.”
UI senior women’s golfer
Now Cavanaugh comes in as the women’s golf leader as the only senior on the team. It is a much different role from being the lone freshman to the only senior — it is a much more comfortable position. Crawford wants Cavanaugh to get the full experience of being a senior and to enjoy every minute of it and she plans on doing exactly that.
“I just want her to enjoy this year,” Crawford said. “Since I have been here, the seniors haven’t always embraced that role of being a senior and making it the best experience ever. That is something that we both have talked about.”
“It’s a great thing (being the only senior),” Cavanaugh said. “It was kind of tough being the only freshman when I first came in and figuring all of that out by myself. It is great being the only senior, being a leader, helping bring the team up.”
So far this season, Cavanaugh has played six rounds and averaged a career-low 81.3 strokes per round. During a career that has so far spanned 53 rounds, Cavanaugh has averaged 83.2 strokes per round with a low of 73. The Hawkeyes will travel to the Johnnie Imes Invitational on Oct. 5-6 in Columbia, Mo.
Like many golfers, Cavanaugh looks up to Tiger Woods. She doesn’t act on the course like her idol during the heat of the moment. Woods too often loses his cool, and it is apparent when he gets frustrated. Crawford wants Cavanaugh to be a little more like Woods and let her emotions out more often, instead of disguising them.
“I’ve joked with her several times that she needs to show a little more passion, she tries to keep it inside,” Crawford said. “Tiger is very intense, so obviously when you’re the best player in the world, you’re going to have a lot of passion and a lot of expectation. Alison certainly does as well. It’s OK to not be playing that great and show it, acknowledge it, make some adjustments and fix it versus everything is great. She is doing a much better job with that already this year.”
Cavanaugh has come a long way since she started at Iowa. She has put a lot of work into making herself better every year. During her freshman year she was the recipient of the Tigerhawk Award, given to the team member that works the hardest.
“In the 13 years that I have been coaching, Alison has made the biggest improvements from a freshman to her senior year,” Crawford said. “She works very hard and has worked very hard to get to this point. Alison has put a lot of work into her physical game, she has put a lot of work into her mental game and she doesn’t let a lot of the bad shots or mistakes get to her. So, I think that is clearly an advantage that she has that a lot of the younger players don’t.”
With golf being an individualized sport, Cavanaugh and Crawford have been making plans on how to make it feel like more of a team atmosphere.
“She is very competitive,” Crawford said. “We do a lot of team competitions and split into teams of black and gold, we can get a pretty mean game of Catch Phrase going in the van. Alison has that competitive spirit and she recently mentioned about getting more team-oriented ideas going on, more competitiveness, because golf is an individual sport, so she is able to bring a team aspect.”
Cavanaugh still wishes she could play volleyball, but knows that she picked an exclusive activity for a college career. She can competitively play the rest of her life.
“Volleyball was my first major competitive sport — we went to nationals every year, so I have always been an athlete,” she said. “In the (golf) offseason, I don’t know what to do with myself. Golf is such a unique sport because you can play as long as you can walk or stand up.”
The Hawkeyes are aiming for a top-four finish in the Big Ten Conference this season, including a trip to regionals. With a competitive leader like Cavanaugh, things are looking bright for Iowa in 2009.
ALISON CAVANAUGH CAREER STATISTICS