Meghan MacLaren stood on the first tee, wearing a new uniform and playing in her first college event representing Florida International University.
She was far from her home in Britain as she took her first shot in the 2012 Wolverine Invitational at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend.
What’s a freshman in her first contest supposed to do?
MacLaren had a powerful answer in the shiver-inducing, 45-degree weather.
She finished in a tie for first in the individual standings to lead Florida International to a tie for first with host Michigan in the team standings.
So much for first-time nerves.
MacLaren mimics the makeup of the FIU team — young. Three of the FIU players in the tournament were freshmen.
“Meghan was very solid for sure,” said FIU coach Joe Vogel.
He said MacLaren’s quick success did not come without help.
“The upperclassmen have taken care of the younger players, helping these young girls adjust,” Vogel said. “This is probably the closest team I’ve had here, and that makes a difference. I’m trying to get them to not just play for themselves, but play for the team.
“The dynamic is better than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve had this successful start.”
Joining MacLaren on the FIU team, which has an international flavor, are junior Shelby Coyle (Pembroke Pines), senior Tania Tare (New Zealand), senior Yolecci Jimenez (Venezuela), freshman Carla Jane (Chile), freshman Sophie Godley (Britain), and freshman Jasmine Wade (Oldsmar, Fla.)
Vogel, in his seventh season, wants a consistently successful program — which has a rich early history with LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley being the first player to join the school.
“It has been a building process,” said Vogel, 53.
And he has built it with good results, reaching No. 21 in the Division I rankings two years ago. Not bad for a guy who was lukewarm about the FIU job.
“I almost turned it down,” he said. “When I decided I wouldn’t apply for it, I couldn’t sleep that night, so I called up and interviewed for the job and got it.”
That was a move he is thankful for.
“It has really been a great experience,” he said. “Seeing them get degrees and graduate, that’s a highlight. That brings a lot of satisfaction.”
Vogel’s golf career (he started playing when he was 11) included turning professional in 1988.
“I played the mini-tour one year,” he said, “but I never played that much on a big level.”
Change will be coming to the program next season, and Vogel is looking forward to it. The team will leave the Sun Belt Conference for Conference USA.
“It will be a good move for us,” Vogel said. “It’s a little bit of a stronger conference, and when teams are picked for regionals, the bigger conferences get more picks.”
How good will the FIU women be? “It’s a little too early to tell,” Vogel cautions.
However, he is certain about one thing. “The team this year is very young, but they are a lot of fun.”