April 22, 2014
By Jerome Boettcher | Subscribe to Commodore Nation
Antonia Scherer teed off.
She watched her shot. Then she walked to her golf bag and dropped in her driver. She pulled out a textbook.
The Vanderbilt freshman was capitalizing on the down time between shots to study for a big exam in astronomy. In the final round of the Central District Invitational in February.
Vanderbilt was mounting a comeback on the last day, and Scherer was flipping through her book. Coach Greg Allen had never seen anything like it.
“I started too late studying, so I played the last round and I had my book with me, during shots, while walking (the course),” Scherer says innocently. “It was nice. It is good because it distracts you. You don’t think about golf too much. I got through four of the six chapters, which made me very happy. And I played good at the same time.”
Seriously, Scherer shot a five-under-par 67 on the final round, including sinking a 33-footer on the 17th hole, to help the Commodores win their first tournament championship in seven years.
That astronomy exam? She got a 93.
“I’m a person who likes being distracted,” Scherer said. “I would like talking about other things than golf while playing golf. And there are people who need to concentrate on their golf game.”
Scherer’s teammate and fellow freshman Simin Feng fits that description. An intense competitor who sees professional golf as a definite, not a maybe, Feng has finished in the top five four five times this season. She has been top medalist twice, most recently on Sunday when she won the SEC Championship by eight strokes and helped the Commodores to the team title.
Scherer and Feng have been a dynamic freshman duo for the Commodores, even though their approaches vary greatly. Together, Allen says this freshman tandem is his most talented since he coached Lorena Ochoa and Natalie Gulbis at Arizona in 2001.
Both players started golf early.
Scherer, a native of Aystetten, Germany, made the German national team when she was 14. By 2011, she was putting herself into contention as one of the best young international female golfers. That year she won both the German under-18 girls championship and the German amateur ladies championship. She played in the Junior Solheim Cup, which pairs the top 12 girls from Europe against the top 12 from the United States.
Her plan was to head to America in the fall of 2012 to play collegiate golf. But she hit a hiccup when a stray golf ball fractured her arm. Initially doctors thought she might not be able to play golf, but she battled back after being out of competition for four months. She took a year off, working internships and waiting tables.
She bounced back in 2013, finishing fifth in the French International Lady Juniors Championship and the European Nations Cup in Spain.
“She’s got a fire about her,” Allen said. “She is a fun lady to be around.”
Feng, whose mother, uncle and grandfather played team handball in China, switched from tennis to golf at age nine. Less than a year later, her parents moved her from Beijing, China, to Florida to train at better facilities and learn from the game’s top instructors. She played on the American Junior Golf Association circuit for seven years, winning five tournaments and capturing the AJGA girls championship in 2012.
She admits that she hated golf at first. Golf was the reason she was pulled away from her friends in grade school and moved halfway across the world.
“Golf has been with me for so long” now, though, she said. “Naturally, it is what I want to do and what I need to do and what I put my time into. I really, really like it in that I really want to get a job out of that. I want to become a professional. Of course, the pressure would come, especially with parents paying for me to come all the way over to the United States. It is not that I have pressure from my parents. I know that I need to do well.”
At the Central District Invitational, while Scherer was doing her part — and studying — Feng carried the torch with a three-day total of nine-under-par, 207 for top medalist honors. Feng won the tournament by one stroke, winning a scorecard playoff thanks to a birdie on the 18th hole. She maintained her hot streak three weeks later at the tough Darius Rucker Intercollegiate by tying for third.
“She has an unbelievable work ethic,” Allen said. “She is very focused, very driven. She wants to play on the LPGA Tour and be the best out there. Last player that came through my program (when he was head coach at Arizona) that said that was Lorena Ochoa.”