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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Central’s Rodney joins Lady Falcons’ flock

BY TONY CASTRO Hernando Today correspondent Hernando Today correspondent

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A rare four-year starter and three-time All-County golf selection – Central senior Stephanie Nicole Rodney – recently fulfilled a wish by signing to play collegiately for the Lady Falcons of Daytona State College.

The 2012-13 campaign was Daytona State head coach Laura Brown’s 15th season. The Lady Falcons have captured five NJCAA national championships out of Daytona Beach – some 2½ hours and 130 miles from Central.

According to the 18-year-old Rodney, her choice for college boiled down to Seminole State College (where ex-Hernando High standout Lauren Shuford competed) and Daytona State.

“Both were similar, but I thought I connected better with the golf coach at Daytona,” explained the middle of three children to Joe and Michelle Rodney. “I was impressed with how helpful she was. She answered every question I had. She had an open ear. I was looking for someone who’d be there for me.”

After visiting with some of the members of the Lady Falcons’ squad, “The girls were very nice,” recalled Rodney. “To me, Daytona’s players had a little more spark.”

The 5-foot-5 Rodney was born in New Port Richey. Her family has called Hernando County home for 12 years.

Long before her love affair with the links began, Rodney’s first athletic endeavor revolved around gymnastics.

“I did gymnastics for a year when I was 8 years old,” recalled Rodney. “I just wanted to do it.”

Next, she followed her older brother’s footsteps into soccer.

“I played for two years. I played up top (forward),” she said. “I enjoyed the competitive nature of the sport. Deep down, I’m a really competitive person.

“My only goal was when I tried to clear a ball from the back and accidentally got it past our keeper for an own goal. How could I ever forget that?”

Looking for her niche, Rodney tagged along one day with her grandfather to the local driving range on County Line Road. That experience changed her perspective on the sport.

“It (golf) was different and it was a fun day,” recalled Rodney. “After that, my mom asked if I’d like to take lessons a couple weeks later at Oak Hills.

“I remember wanting to play competitively when I was 12 and I joined the North Suncoast Junior Golf Association,” added Rodney. “I fell in love with it. In golf, you can’t blame anyone or anything else when you don’t play well.”

After getting her feet wet at the recreational level, Rodney attended Powell Middle School as a sixth- and seventh-grader, but did not participate in any sports.

She transferred to Explorer K-8 as an eighth-grader, where she played golf.

“That year was a lot of fun. Coach made practice fun,” recalled Rodney. “It seemed like we all had a good time learning the sport.”

As an eighth-grader, Rodney crossed paths for the first time with Challenger K-8’s Megan Berube.

Berube matriculated to Springstead, where she was named All-County four times and Player of the Year after all four years.

A couple of years earlier during the lessons at Oak Hills, Rodney recalls being introduced to Kae Elliott.

Elliott became a four-year starter and four-time All-County selection at Nature Coast.

Rodney matriculated to Central, where she started for 3½ seasons (she was injured during her freshman campaign) and was eventually voted All-County thrice.

This trio became the backbone of the sport for four years in Hernando County. Ironically, all three toted home at least one district championship and qualified for regionals a collective 11 times.

On what fired up Rodney’s game, “I was fortunate to meet players like Megan (Berube) and Kae (Elliott) that played at my skill level,” she said. “I wanted to be the best player I could be – so did they.”

The low ebb in her prep career arrived when she was a freshman; she suffered ligament damage to an ankle. Due to the injury, she was limited to three matches.

After finishing behind Berube (36.3) and Elliott (45.3) in scoring as a sophomore, Rodney finished No. 2 in the county as a junior and senior to Berube – who signed last fall with Division I Indiana State University.

Rodney concluded her prep career playing 46 nine-hole rounds averaging a fine 43.2 average.

According to Rodney her prep highlights included, “reaching regionals three times and winning districts (Class 2A, District 5 Tourney at Ocala-Pine Oaks with an 18-hole 73) as a senior,” she said.

On her terrific individual battles against Berube and Elliott, who helped her elevate her game, “They were both great competitors,” noted Rodney. “I wish them all the best. I came close to achieving all my goals. I look forward to reaching my goals in college.”

Rodney, who carries a 3.7 grade point average, cites science as her favorite class on the Bear campus. She aspires to study psychology and possibly work in profiling criminals.

Early on in the decision process, Rodney said she decided she wanted to stay in state, “so I could come home whenever I wanted.”

On the Daytona Beach campus, “It’s beautiful and I wanted some space between home and college,” she recalled. “I’m going to miss my parents, but there comes a time when every child has to leave the nest; I think it’s time.”

On overcoming obstacles to be successful in college, “I have to learn to balance my time,” pointed out Rodney. “In high school, my grades never slipped. I have to keep that up.

“As far as golf, I have to continue doing my drills,” explained Rodney. “The learning never stops. I have to reach more fairways, I have to hit more greens, I’ve got to score better and more importantly you have to always maintain course management.”

According to Rodney, perhaps the biggest sticking point is, “I have to listen to advice.”

Before matriculating to the Volusia County campus, Rodney wanted to thank her parents.

“My dad, especially for him listening to my bickering and my mom for helping me stay on task with my grades,” she said.

“I have to thank my coach (Vicki Weaver) for all the help she’s given on and off the course,” added Rodney. “And I have to thank Jim Neely (teaching professional at World Woods Golf Club), he’s the one who opened my eyes to the possibility that I could play at the next level.”

Before she graduates from CHS and heads toward Daytona Beach, “I’d like to be remembered as a helpful person,” declared Rodney. “And I’d like to be remembered as the person who had an open ear.”

By the Numbers: Central’s Stephanie Rodney

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2009 03 42.7

2010* 17 46.5

2011* 12 43.1

2012* 14 40.4

--4-- 46 43.2

* Denotes voted All-County

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