Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 16
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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TITLE SHOT: Princeton University golf star Susannah Aboff displays her putting form. Aboff, who has won two individual titles this spring, will be looking to add another this weekend as she and the Tigers play in the Ivy League Championships in Galloway, N.J.

Junior Star Aboff Displaying a Winning Touch; Aims to Lead Tiger Women’s Golf to Ivy Title

Bill Alden

After putting together an outstanding career at Cold Spring Harbor High School, Susannah Aboff had the chance to join the Duke University women’s golf team, the dominant program in its sport.

But Aboff, who was also recruited by Northwestern, Yale, and Princeton, got bad vibes about her potential role on the star-studded Duke squad.

“Duke had the best team but the coach said I would be his project,” recalled Aboff.

“I knew that meant that I might not travel and if I wasn’t going to tournaments, it was going to be harder to get better.”

As a result, Aboff opted to come to Princeton and she has been getting better and better by the year.

In her freshman year in 2005-06, she finished fourth in the Princeton Invitational and then took sixth in the Ivy League Championships, earning all-league honors.

Last year, Aboff won the Hoya Invitational and moved up to third at the Ivy League tournament.

This past summer, Aboff won the Women’s Met Open in Ridgewood, N.J., becoming just the fourth amateur to win the prestigious event.

That triumph gave Aboff a major boost coming into her junior year which saw her win the Princeton Invitational last fall before winning Shamrock Invitational crown and repeating as the Hoya Invitational champ this spring.

This weekend, Aboff will be looking add the Ivy individual title to her resume as the Tigers head to Galloway, N.J. for the Ivy League Championships.

As a child growing up in Long Island, Aboff’s initial sporting focus was not on the links but in the pool as a standout swimmer.

A swimming injury, though, helped her catch the golfing bug. “My father took me out golfing every year but I didn’t start playing until I was 12 or 13,” said Aboff.

“I was a swimmer and I had some shoulder problems. Golf is less demanding physically and my dad would let me drive the cart.”

It didn’t take long for Aboff to become a driven competitor on the golf course. “I started playing tournaments when I was 14,” said Aboff.

“I loved it; I’m a competitive person. It was much more fun for me to play in tournaments than just play with my father and his friends. It was fun to play with kids my own age.”

Aboff faced challenges playing with kids in high school as she was the only girl on the Cold Spring Harbor golf team.

“There were pluses and minuses to being the only girl,” said Aboff with a laugh. “One of the boys on the team asked me out for the prom. When I played in the states, I was the only girl with 99 boys. I didn’t play well so I felt the pressure.”

Sticking with swimming through high school helped Aboff on the golf course. “Swimming made me stronger, I am able to hit further than a lot of the girls,” said Aboff. “It also helped me with practice, you learn how to work hard.”

Upon arriving at Princeton, Aboff found herself enjoying practice right away. “It’s easy freshman year,” recalled Aboff. “You have tournaments in the fall and you get to know your teammates quickly. It’s like a small family and you find your niche. The team is small and very close.”

Competing for the Tigers has changed Aboff’s perspective on the game. “Playing on a team is different, your score counts toward five others and you are not as aggressive on certain shots,” said Aboff. “You feel a different responsibility. It helped playing with my teammates every day, I learned a lot of different shots.”

Aboff learned a lot from her win last summer in the Met tournament. “It was my biggest accomplishment ever,” asserted Aboff, who carded a four-under 140 in winning the title including a final round of 68.

“It was the first time I broke 70 in competition. It was just so much fun; It was different playing against pros who were going for money. I played the best I’ve ever played. I just made a lot of putts. The Met win helped me a lot, I feel more confident now.”

Princeton head coach Amy Bond believes that the Met win was a springboard for Aboff coming into her junior season.

“Any time you win a big tournament and beat the best players in the country, that helps you,” said Bond.

“I think it has vaulted her to where she is; it has been a process. She was always a good player but she has really improved her short game. She found her putting stroke at the end of last season. She has always been a good ball striker, she is one of the best ball strikers in the country.”

In assessing her success so far this season, Aboff points to a sharpened focus. “I think my problem had been my third round,” explained Aboff.

“In the fall, I was playing well but I was having trouble learning how to finish. This spring, I got over it. I guess it was a mental thing. I was in the lead in two tournaments, it’s a different feeling, there is a lot of pressure.”

Aboff is looking forward to the pressure she will face this weekend in the Ivy League competition.

“It’s definitely a goal to win individually,” said Aboff, who finished third last weekend at the Roar-EE Invitational at the Hampshire Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. to help Princeton take sixth in team standings.

“The main thing is to win as a team, that’s what gets us in the NCAAs. If I finished sixth and we won the team title, that would be ideal. We have the game to win, it’s a matter of putting it all together.”

Bond believes Aboff can put it all together this weekend. “As her coach, I would say she is the player to beat,” said Bond, whose squad placed second to Columbia in the team standings at the 2007 Ivy tournament.

“She is playing so well and with so much confidence. If she does the little things well, stays in control and plays in the moment, she has a great chance. She plays well under pressure.”

As Aboff ponders her future in golf, she is anxious to test herself under the ultimate pressure situation in the game.

“I’m hoping to become a pro,” said Aboff. “After Princeton, I’m planning to move to Florida and play on the futures tour. I just love playing, I could play all day. I’d love to play as long as I could.”

With the way Aboff has played at Princeton, it appears that the Duke coaches underestimated her potential in the game.

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