GAINESVILLE, Fla. – She knew she was going to be a Gator. As a rising national prospect from just her sophomore year at Lake Howell High School in Casselberry, Jessica Yadloczky (Casselberry, Fla.) gave her pledge that she was taking her golf game to the University of Florida.
By Ben Schlesselman
UF Sports Information
No more having to worry about letters in the mail and no more thinking about official visits. No more thinking about pitches that Arizona, LSU, Tennessee, among many others, were throwing at her.
She could just solely focus on getting better as a player to take get ready to take the next step in her promising career. What was previously a dream as an eight-year old girl anxious to be dropped off and left at the golf course for the day had turned into reality. Her independence and desire to get better when she took her first swing with a golf club at the age of seven paid immediate dividends when she penned her name on the letter of intent to become a Gator.
When Yadloczky was a sophomore in high school, Florida tied for sixth at the 2006 NCAA Championships and USC’s Dewi Schreefel captured individual medalist honors. Fast forward two years later and Yadloczky placed ahead of Schreefel and eight other All-Americans in just her first career tournament at the Mason Rudolph Women’s Championship in Nashville, Tenn.
Her showing at the Mason Rudolph was not only impressive as a debut but the way she improved throughout every round, battling swirling winds and adverse weather to post the team’s best score in the final round.
She is a key contributor on the fifth-ranked Lady Gators, ranking third on the team in stroke average through nine rounds at a 73.3 clip. Yadloczky anchored the lineup at the Wildcat Fall Invitational where she finished a career-best sixth and will be second in the rotation when the team heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend for the Ann Rhoads Intercollegiate.
In a game that is becoming increasingly more difficult to impress collegiate coaches because of the accrued interest on a national scale and the pressure to perform at qualifying tournaments, head coach Jill Briles-Hinton again demonstrated her recruiting prowess in the Sunshine State to reel in one of the most coveted talents in the country.
“We were very fortunate to bring in Jessica to the program,” Briles-Hinton said. “I see a lot in her game that mirrors (Sandra) Gal’s and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that she reaches her full potential at Florida.”
Briles-Hinton’s latest catch has turned into a staple of a rotation that has the Florida’s women’s golf team clicking on all cylinders from the outset of Eleanor Tucker’s first drive off the tee box at the Mason Rudolph Women’s Championship to the hoisting of the first-place trophy after Sandra Gal’s birdie putt in a playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Classic to claim her third individual medal.
Perched above the team’s lockers at the Mark Bostick Golf Course adorns the iridescent crystal trophy that the Lady Gators brought home from Knoxville after defeating defending champion Tennessee on its home course a few weeks ago.
It also serves as a reminder to the team to strive for what hasn’t been accomplished in Gainesville since the 1985 and 1986 seasons. Yadloczky is relishing the chance to contribute to what Briles-Hinton has called one of the best teams she has ever coached.
“The team is still the same as last year and I’m privileged to be playing with these girls,” Yadloczky said. “We’re going to rebound from the tough regionals from last year with a vengeance and I just want to play my best for them.”
Yadloczky credits much of her teammates for helping her get settled, in particular, seniors Tiffany Chudy (Miramar, Fla.) and Whitney Myers
(East Berlin, Pa.). The senior duo has embraced the leadership role and taken the freshman under her wings. The three have roomed together at tournaments and spend time together on and off the course.
Even though Casselberry is only two hours away from Gainesville, Yadloczky’s main concern about making the transition to college was just feeling comfortable and getting used to things like team meetings, study halls and online classes.
Part of what has made Yadloczky such a viable option in the rotation is her experience on the Duramed Futures Tour, which she joined in January. She not only made cuts in seven of nine tournaments, but consistently posted low scores, topping some many former collegiate golfers. The experience put things in perspective but also gave her something to strive for.
“It helped set me up for the collegiate season and gave me drive,” Yadloczky said. “There players were the great college player and putting myself up against some of them gave me a chance to see where I am now. If I finish in a certain place, that might be good but there’s still some players that finished above me.”
Yadloczky’s father, Stephen, receives praise for getting Jessica on the links. When she was eight she would ask to be left alone at the golf course all day. When she was nine she would use the local dog track as a mini driving range and retrieve her own balls.
“My dad would never have to tell me to practice,” Yadloczky reflected. “I would ask him to let me come on some of his trips with his friends and I was upset when I had to stay home.”
Looking ahead to next year, Yadloczky understands that she is a cornerstone and building block for the immediate future. With the departure of Gal, Myers, Chudy and Eleanor Tucker (Wilson, N.C.), she’ll be a big part of Florida golf.
“I just look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to work harder,” Yadloczky said. “I don’t think it will be as much leading scorewise but more of leading by example.”
To alter the Duramed Futures Tour slogan ever so slightly, this girl is good.