+ College Golf

Srinivasan is the ANNIKA Award winner for 2020

Natalie Srinivasan has had to keep a pretty big secret for the last couple of weeks.

The graduating Furman senior found out that she was the winner of the 2020 ANNIKA Award (The women’s golf equivalent of the Heisman Trophy in college football) two weeks ago.

“I got the call a few days after the voting ended,” said Srinivasan. “I let my parents know, but we didn’t tell anyone else. It really wasn’t hard to keep it a secret. I had a lot going on to finish school and didn’t have much time to think about it,” she said.

Srinivasan found out she was the winner when the award’s namesake gave her a call with the good news.

“Jeff (Hull Furman’s coach) told me to keep my phone turned on for a couple of days. I usually don’t answer the phone, if its important they can leave a number and I call them back,” she said.

When Srinivasan saw the unfamiliar number she answered the phone and immediately recognized Annika Sorenstam’s voice.

“When I heard her voice I knew what was happening. Getting a call from Annika is the same as a guy getting a call from Tiger Woods,” she said.

The new Furman grad was officially announced as the 2020 winner of the ANNIKA Award as the top women’s college golfer on the GolfChannel.

Natalie Srinivasan was interviewed on the Golf Channel after being announced as the ANNIKA Award winner.

She got to watch the official announcement on TV with her parents. They had not seen the interview she did for the broadcast.

“I never thought this could happen in real life,” said Srinivasan. “It is just awesome to be voted this award by the coaches, players and the media,” she said.

Srinivasan is not sure if it comes with a trophy or a plaque or anything, but getting some hardware didn’t matter.

She does know she receives an invitation to play in the 2021 Evian Championship, one of the LPGA majors.

“I am grateful to have this opportunity.  I would like to thank my family, my teammates, and my coaches, especially my head coach, Jeff Hull.  I would not be the player I am today without them,” she said.

LPGA All-Time great Annika Sorenstam lends her name to the award given to the top women college golfer each year. (GolfClub photo)

The ANNIKA Award is the latest honor to come to the Spartanburg native.

Late in April, Srinivasan was named the Ping WGCA National Player of the Year. She also earned first team All-America honors.

She finished the pandemic shortened college season with three wins and the number one ranking on GolfStat with a season stroke average of 70.51.

One of the little extras that came with the three victories was the opportunity to finish in front of several of the other top individual players in the country.

When she won in Toledo at the Glass City Invitational she out dueled Sierra Brooks from Florida, who had been the number one player in the GolfStat ranking.

Her victory in the Lady Paladin achieved a career goal of winning on her home course. A bonus was finishing in front of a pair of Wake Forest golfers who were also nationally ranked.

Srinivasan’s third win of the season came at the Moon Golf Invitational where she had to card a final round 5-under par 67 to top freshman Anna Morgan, who may be the next top player to be at Furman.

The three wins led all Division I golfers and along with the other awards allowed Srinivasan to add her name to the list of  outstanding Lady Paladin golfers.

Srinivasan gives credit to her coach at Furman Jeff Hull for her progress from a good player to the national player of the year. (GolfClub photo)

“I am so proud of Natalie for winning the ANNIKA Award,” said Hull.  “She had an amazing career at Furman, and for her to cap it off with this award is a testament to her hard work and dedication during her time here.  I can’t think of a more deserving player than Natalie,” he said.

Srinivasan will make her professional debut sometime this summer. The LPGA Tour and the Symetra Tour have recently completed their schedules.

Srinivasan hopes being the college player of the year could earn her some exemptions into Tour events.

“I have conditional status on the Symetra Tour, but I’m not sure how many tournaments I could play. I’m going to start figuring out what is next now that the Tour has a schedule and I am finished with school,” she said.

Turning pro requires more than just a declaration. Srinivasan’s father is taking care of the business end of the move. He has caddied for her in some bigger amateur events and might help out occasionally on the Tour.

Srinivasan became the first Furman golfer since 1998 to be named a first team All-American. (GolfClub file photo)

While Hull has been her day to day coach for the past few years, she has also been working with Jackie and Daniel Seawell, the very well respected coaches in Aiken.

“I have not been able to get to Aiken to see them much during the year, but I know I will be working with them to get ready,” she said.

Srinivasan hopes to strike a deal with Ping. The equipment company has supported her during her college days.

“I went to Arizona to be fitted and I love everything about Ping. I hope to continue the partnership,” she noted.

Srinivasan’s college career and awards now allows her to be included among the legends of the Lady Paladin golf program.

Beth Daniel and Betsy King are LPGA Hall of Fame golfers. Sherri Turner helped Furman win a national championship and Dottie Pepper was a three-time All-American and has an LPGA record worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

Srinivasan joins the 1983 Haskins Award winner Brad Faxon who earned the top national award in college golf. Furman and UCLA are the only college golf programs to have a women’s and men’s national player of the year.

Furman and UCLA are the only college programs to have both a men’s and women’s player of the year. Furman’s Brad Faxon won the 1983 Haskins Award.

Before the end of the summer the golfer who dominated all SoCon awards for the last three years will take the next step and hopes to match some of the accomplishments of the Lady Paladin’s alumnae.

“Ive looked up to those four. They have been great examples and they have set a path for what I want to do. I hope in ten years I can do half of what they have accomplished,” concluded the consensus national women’s college golfer of the year.

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