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Freshman Lydia Cranmer could lead women's golf to a top finish in OAC

Lydia Cranmer competed at the Heidelberg Fall Invitational this past weekend. Cranmer earned Medalist honors and led her team to a third place finish. (photo/ ONU Sports Information)

A diamond in the rough.

This is the phrase ONU head women’s Golf Coach Chad Bucci used to describe up-and-coming freshman golfer Lydia Cranmer, who has posted impressive finishes at her first three tournaments of the fall season as just a freshman.

But he didn’t choose this phrase for her lack of refinement as a golf player. Rather, he chose it because Cranmer was so accomplished in high school that he himself overlooked her.

“I didn’t think she was going to come here because her golf game warranted to be at a higher level,” Bucci said. “She was someone I wasn’t really going after because I thought she could have been playing at a higher level than Division III.”

Cranmer has extensive experience playing in major tournaments and competed regularly at the state level with her high school team, the Ladywood Blazers, out of Farmington Hills, Mich. She took 10th in state her senior year.

“She has tournament awareness,” Bucci said. “At this stage as a freshman, she’s acting like she’s been there before. A lot of the girls coming from a small high school to a small college are not ready for that.”

So how did a girl with such an impressive record end up at ONU?

“My aunt lives in Findlay and she knew I wanted to go to a small school, so she told me to come check it out,” Cranmer said. “This was the first school I came and looked at. I talked to the dean of engineering and the president and it was just amazing what they were saying and how highly ranked it is in engineering. I loved the campus feel and the way it’s designed, so I thought it was perfect for me.”

She also admired how Bucci prioritized receiving a great education that is second to golf. True to his word, Bucci reflected on Lydia’s decision. “She sought out Ohio Northern more from an academic end and golf is just a bonus for her,” he said.

So far, the computer engineering student has shown that, even as a bonus, she can experience great success on the golf course.

After just two tournaments as a Polar Bear, she began to show a pronounced impact. She opened up the season with an individual victory at the ONU Fall Classic and placed sixth out of 32 competitors at the Ohio Wesleyan Fall Invitational.

Her debut victory at home came as a surprise to her but also contributed to heightening her nerves down the road. Cranmer felt the overarching expectations that come with success during her first day at Ohio Wesleyan. “Something wasn’t clicking,” she said. “I was just missing all of my putts. I think I was just too focused on thinking that I had to meet the expectations of last week.”

After a talk with Coach Bucci, Cranmer felt refueled for the next day and managed to card an 82 for the round, a goal they had discussed together the previous night.

Cranmer said that in these situations when nerves creep in, Coach Bucci is good at talking her down. She recalled one particular conversation she had with him when he told her: “You have nothing to worry about. If you have a bad round, that’s OK and that’s expected. You need to go out and know that you’re good at golf and just have fun with it.”

“That really set with me and that’s when I knew that this is really where I’m supposed to be,” Cranmer said.

Perhaps she admired his words so much because they mimicked ones her coach in high school exchanged with her. “You are better than you think you are,” he would tell her. These are the words that drive her because she knows that there is always something she can improve upon and doing so will ultimately help her team.

Bucci acknowledged this drive. “She is a player that knows the game from preparation to looking at what she could have done better after she finishes a round,” he said. On top of that, he said that she went out on her own to practice the course at Tiffin before their tournament this past weekend.

This dedication clearly paid off.

After the second day, Cranmer claimed Medalist honors at the Heidelberg Fall Invitational in an 83-deep field. Her score of 80-75-155 over 36 holes put her just four strokes off of the school record of 151 set by Meagan Brennen in 2008. On top of that, her score of 75 was the third-lowest round in school history, just two strokes away from the number one spot also held by Brennen.

The Heidelberg Invitational was the largest match yet this season for the Polar Bears, who finished third overall. It is possible that this momentum could carry over into the conference tournament in the spring season.

“We’ve been kind of in the middle of the road and now we have someone like Lydia come in and our team has already improved by an average of nine shots,” Bucci said.

Bucci is referring to the team’s conference record of historically finishing in the middle of six teams. So could Cranmer be the missing piece the team is searching for to snag a higher finish within the conference?

Bucci is optimistic. “I feel really good about my one, two, and three,” he said. “I need strong performances out of my four and five players. I need one of those two to step up.”

And while Cranmer is clearly doing her part individually, her success seems to be leaching out to those around her. “It has pushed the upperclassmen to get better,” Bucci said. “The team chemistry is 180 from last year.”

Caitlin Silva, a team captain and junior on the team, agrees. “Lydia has really been a driving factor,” she said. “She led us to win our first tournament of the season and just this weekend won medalist in an 83-person field, helping the team to post the second-lowest 18 hole round in school history. This is really pushing me and the rest of our team to go out and train and practice as hard as we can so that we can truly compete in competitions.”

Perhaps Cranmer’s successes will be enough to motivate the team to an OAC victory. “We are so strong as a team,” she said. “I think we should all just really do our best, not focus too much on bad shots, and just remember that we are playing for ourselves.”

No matter the outcome, Cranmer is sure to contribute to the ONU women’s golf program in a larger way than she already has. Bucci believes that her success and commitment will attract future recruits to their young and quickly developing program. He is confident that this diamond shines brighter than many others to ever set foot on campus. “Lydia will leave Ohio Northern as one of the top female golfers in the school’s history,” he said.