Jacksons Dreams Coming True

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College CentralGREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Brandi Jackson has had the same dreams for 14 years -- to play golf at Furman and to reach the LPGA Tour.
 
The first goal wraps up next week at the NCAA Championships. The other takes shape this summer after her last amateur tournament, the U.S. Women's Open in July.
 
It all began when Jackson, then an 8-year-old from Belton, came to Furman for an outing featuring LPGA stars -- and former Paladin standouts -- Beth Daniel and Dottie Pepper.
 
'There were definitely times since then I asked myself if that was really what I wanted to do,' said Jackson, the Southern Conference Player of the Year who shot a final-round 66 to win the NCAA East Regional last week. 'Now that it seems so close, it's definitely what I want to do.'
 
Also heading to the NCAAs in West Lafayette, Ind., from May 20-23 is the South Carolina golf team and its leader, senior Kristy McPherson. McPherson finished second at the regional, four strokes behind her friend Jackson.
 
'It definitely shows South Carolina's got one of the strongest junior golf programs out there,' said McPherson of Conway.

And Jackson, a surprise runner-up at the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer, appears ready to follow the LPGA legacy of former Furman players Betsy King, Daniel and Pepper.

'I felt like she had all the tools,' said Furman coach Mic Potter, who coached Pepper, Joan Delk, Jen Hanna and others to the LPGA.
 
What Jackson didn't have at first was the drive to spend hours on the range grooving a swing. She says her mind wanders as practice drags on. It's sometimes hard for her to work during time away from campus.
 
Jackson and Potter talked of her inconsistency after last season. She had won the SoCon Championships, but then followed that by finishing 45th in the NCAAs.
 
Jackson finally realized she couldn't stay sharp without drills. The work proved successful at the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer, where she stunningly reached the 36-hole final match before losing to Becky Lucidi 3-and-2.
 
That qualified Jackson for this year's U.S. Open at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon. And it also showed her that practice can indeed make perfect.
 
'It's good to see you have that success,' Jackson said. 'It makes you want to work more.'

Jackson's rise continued this season. She had seven top-10 finishes this year, including the East Regional individual victory, after only four such placings her first three seasons.
 
Part of her success, Jackson says, is how she typically shrugs off the bad shots very quickly. During her 66 at the East Regional, she had a double-bogey 6 on the 7th hole. Jackson told herself, 'Oh well, I guess I'll need about five birdies coming in.'

'That's what I did,' Jackson said.
 
One of Jackson's toughest challengers at the Purdue course could be South Carolina's McPherson. She's won twice this year, including the Lady Boilermaker Invitational played over the championship course.
 
South Carolina coach Kristi Coggins says McPherson played strongly at the East Regional, but got surpassed with Jackson's stellar 66. 'That's what you want to happen if you lose,' Coggins said. 'Kristy played very, very well' at the regional.
 
Jackson thought her approach to the game convinced Potter she could succeed. 'He saw me have a hole-in-one and he saw me have a 13,' she said. 'Between those two and the way I handled it, it kind of helped him think I could come her and play.'

Her calm attitude typically stays on the course. At tests, at home, in her personal life, Jackson says she's as uncertain and edgy as most normal 22-year-old college students. Potter thinks Jackson's demeanor will help her through the grind of the developmental Futures Tour later this summer and LPGA qualifying school this fall.
 
Soon after Jackson plays at the U.S. Women's Open, she'll hook up with Furman teammate Leigh Turner and McPherson to travel to Futures Tour events this summer. 'Just to be out there to take that next step and not being alone is going to be an amazing experience,' McPherson said.
 
Furman's Potter sees Jackson as a future LPGA champion. 'Whether she wants to be the best player of all time is another story,' he said. 'As laid back as she is, it's kind of hard to get her to commit to something like that. But I could see her going along at her own pace, and all of a sudden, she's No. 1.'
 
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