Redding Carrying Cavalier Banner at NCAAs
May 5, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Her last final exam of the spring semester, for a course in American Sign Language, is early Saturday morning. That technically marks the end of Anna Redding’s second year as a University of Virginia student, but another challenge awaits her before her summer vacation begins.
Late Saturday morning, Redding and UVA head women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen will leave for Athens, Georgia, about a seven-hour drive from Charlottesville. Athens is hosting a three-day NCAA regional at which Redding will be the Cavaliers’ lone representative.
With her exams behind her, Redding said, “I’ll have a completely clear head when I go down there.”
A graduate of Cannon School in her hometown of Concord, North Carolina, Redding was selected to compete as an individual after the Wahoos, for the first time in Lewellen’s 10 seasons as their head coach, did not qualify for an NCAA regional.
The top six teams from the regional, as well as the top three individual finishers who are not part of those teams, will advance to the NCAA championships in Sugar Grove, Illinois, near Chicago.
“I’m excited about [the opportunity],” Redding said. “It’s just going to be very strange not going with the team, because I’m used to traveling with six or seven girls.”
Lewellen said: “Our goal is to go win the whole thing. Let’s bring an individual national championship home to Virginia, because we’ve never done that.”
Virginia won the ACC team title in 2015 and again in ’16. But the `Hoos had only one senior in 2016-17, Lauren Diaz-Yi, and their best finish in any tournament was eighth.
“It’s been a building year for us,” said Redding, whose scoring average of 74.63 leads the team. “It’s been tough.”
Lewellen said: “We’ve had a lot of injuries and things of that nature that have sort of played into the formula for all of this.”
The good news, Lewellen said, is that UVA’s underclassmen, led by Redding and classmate Morgan Gonzales, gained valuable experience this year, and two talented recruits will join the program in 2017-18.
“I think you’ll see us bounce back next year,” Lewellen said.
Redding has faced adversity too. After a terrific fall season that included rounds of 68, 69 and 70, she injured her back while lifting weights in January.
“That’s why my spring hasn’t been as strong,” said Redding, who finished 33rd at the ACC tournament last month.
She’s continued to play, but managing the injury has been challenging.
“It got better, where I didn’t have any symptoms at all,” Redding said, “and then it got worse, and then it got better, and then finally I started to get pain down my leg, and that’s when everybody started to freak out.”
An MRI taken last week reviewed two bulging discs in Redding’s back.
“I feel a lot better knowing what I’m dealing with,” she said.
Her father, Mark, is a neurosurgeon who specializes in spine surgery, and “the fact that he’s calmed down also makes me feel a lot better,” Redding said. “He’s like, `You shouldn’t need surgery at all: just a lot of physical therapy and exercises.’ “
Asked if she’ll be able to play golf while rehabbing this summer, Redding laughed.
“There are some different opinions on that,” she said. “My opinion is that I will continue to play and work through it, but we’ll see. I don’t have any pain right now. There’s just some movements that I’m not going to be able to do. So I’m wearing a back brace now to restrict me from [those movements], but when I swing I don’t have any pain. That’s very good.”
Redding, who plans to major in sociology, comes from an athletic family. Her father played tennis at Ohio State and her mother played volleyball at Youngstown State.
As a freshman in 2015-16, Redding placed fifth at the ACC tournament and 53rd at the NCAA championships. Last summer she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Springfield, Pennsylvania, where she lost in match play in the round of 64.
Gonzales also competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur last year, and she and Redding will be asked to lead the Cavaliers as juniors in 2017-18. Gonzales’ scoring average of 75.29 was third on the team this year, behind Redding and Diaz-Yi (74.79).
“Morgan and I have had to kind of get into leadership roles earlier than I think we both had expected, but we’ve charged it head-on and we’re having fun with it,” Redding said, “so we’re really excited for next year.”
That she’s already almost to the midway point of her college career, Redding said, is “crazy to think about. But I’ve loved it. I absolutely adore this school. I’m very happy that I’ve chosen to come here and play.”
In 2016, the Cavaliers placed sixth at the NCAA regional in Stanford, California. Then came the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon, where they advanced to the quarterfinals of match play before losing.
Her experience in Athens, Redding knows, will be much different.
“It’s going to be weird just going with Coach, but I’ve got a chance to represent the `Hoos as best I can,” she said. “We still have a `Hoo at regionals, and hopefully we’ll get to nationals.”
FAMILIAR TERRITORY: For the 10th straight year, the Virginia men’s golf team is headed to the NCAA tournament. The 18th-ranked Cavaliers are seeded No. 3 (out of 14 teams) at the NCAA regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Host LSU is the No. 1 seed.
The top five teams from each of the six regional sites — and the top individual whose team doesn’t advance — will move on to the NCAA championships, May 26-31 in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
UVA finished 22nd at last year’s NCAA championships.