By Bill Sorrell
What drives Jen Hudson?
“I hit my irons long,” says Hudson, a 2006 graduate who is ranked among the top 10 women golfers in Division 3.
Her drives off the tee fly almost 300yards.
“She can kill it,” says teammate Rachel Stuart ’08.
Rhodes golf coach Bill Cochran says distance helped propel Hudson to be All-America. “She can drive the ball 260-280 yards.”
“They’re long for somebody my size,” says Hudson, who is 5-5. “I like to think it’s a product of my working out.”
Hudson pumps iron. Her weight training and 3-6-mile daily runs have developed physical strength.
Hudson has another iron in the fire: an iron will.
When she was a junior and shot a career-best, two-under-par 70 at Illinois Wesleyan, she got into a zone that reflects her mental state each round she plays.
“I want that one shot more than anything else in the world. When you’re in that special place in your mind, nothing else matters because you are focused,” says Hudson. “I’m a firm believer in self-reliance. My largest challenges have been selfimposed. I push myself.”
Hudson, of New Paltz, NY, was twice named All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and team captain. She was Rhodes’ MVP each season and has a 4-handicap and 76 average.
What’s made Hudson ace her game is practice.
“That seems like it should be a nobrainer, but a good golfer is somebody who likes to practice. To hit golf balls or sit on the greens and chip and putt for five or six hours a day every day, you have to have a lot of focus and Iron Lady determination and love of the game,” she says.
Hudson has loved golf from the moment her father Henry put a club in her hands.
“He made it fun,” she says. Her father, who played professionally before she was born, continues to inspire.
“He keeps my confidence up. When I’m not playing well or kind of burned out, he reminds me of what I like about the sport.”
It’s the competition and the emotional and psychological challenge.
“You’re forced to deal with all the outside forces and make them work inside of you to produce a good score. It’s a lesson of integrity every time you play a round of golf. Focusing on golf from that perspective has made it more enriching,” says Hudson, who prepped at Storm King School in Cornwall, NY.
However, it was her mother Linda who influenced her to do something that brings her the most fulfillment. Linda has taught autistic children and children with Down’s syndrome.
Jen codirects Center Stage, a theater production involving children and adults with learning disabilities. They stage two plays a year.
“It’s possibly the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” says Hudson, an international studies major.
She also plays the piano and writes music. She wrote the music for the June wedding of her best friend Jenna Sadar, a December 2005 Rhodes graduate.
Hudson considers a collection of women golfers from the 1920s to the 1950s and beyond as trailblazers. Golfers such as Patty Berg, Nancy Lopez, Babe Zaharas and Annika Sorenstam are among her heroes.
Hudson plans to turn pro.
“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was little. I’ll regret it if I don’t,” she says.
She will begin play in a developmental tour, a feeder to the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, and may play on the European women’s tour.
Cochran says Hudson has the potential to compete professionally because of her...drive. “She has raised her game to the next level.”
By Bill Sorrell
Jeff Cleanthes’ bad day got better when one of his baseball players did something that meant the world to him.
Dealing with his mother’s illness, the Rhodes baseball coach arrived home one day last December and found a globe on his doorstep.
It was a gift from third baseman Daniel Vanaman and Vanaman’s girlfriend Karina Van Sickle ’08.
During a conversation months before, Cleanthes told Vanaman that he had always wanted a globe.
“He remembered,” says Cleanthes. “That has so much to do with the way his parents (Mike and Whitney Vanaman) brought him up. His parents are wonderful people.”
Cleanthes is complimentary of Daniel Vanaman for other reasons.
Vanaman, a rising junior, began the 2006 season leading the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference in hitting. He batted .444 and had a slugging percentage of .711. His on-base percentage (.436) was the best on the team, and with only nine strikeouts in his first 143 at-bats, he was among the top 30 NCAA Division 3 players in the nation.
Last season, Vanaman was the only Rhodes player named to the All-SCAC first team.
He’s already matched a feat from last season, being named SCAC Player of the Week.
“He’s as good a hitter in D-3 as you’ll come across. He’s one of the top players in the conference,” says Cleanthes, who just completed his third season as head coach.
It took the Lynx only 15 games to surpass their win total of 2005. After finishing 11-28, the Lynx won their 12th game on March 11.
In the baseball film “The Natural,” the star player shatters an outfield light with a home run. Against Trinity, the Lynx ragged Vanaman with comparisons to the movie when he knocked out a light with a foul ball.
“Baseball is not an individual sport,” says Vanaman. “You’ve got to be surrounded by quality teammates. You’ve got to have a good supporting cast. There are three pillars (in baseball): dedication, mental toughness and teammates.”
Along with discipline and hard work, Vanaman learned how to overcome adversity. He suffered two facial injuries and reconstructive surgeries in high school.
He was about to quit his junior year but his father convinced him to stay.
“If you stick with something, no telling what you can do,” his father told him.
Vanaman watched his grandfather and grandmother care for two of their children who suffered from Batten Disease, a fatal neurological disorder that begins in childhood and slowly blinds and paralyzes. They died in their late 20s.
When Rhodes asked him to write a paper on heroes, he wrote about his grandparents.
“I’m blessed to be a part of a great family. I’ve been surrounded by great people my entire life. I need to hold myself to a higher standard. To whom much is given, much is expected,” says Vanaman, a religious studies major.
Golfer Jennison Finishes as National Runner-up
John Jennison ’07 finished the NCAA Division III National Championships in Lincoln, NE, with a birdie, birdie, par finish to claim the national runner-up title for the Lynx. He shot an even par 71 on a day when wind gusts reached 40 miles per hour. Jennison was honored as a First Team All American by the NCAA. The Lynx finished in eighth place in the 23-team field. The University of Rochester’s Stephen Goodridge shot a 73 to finish at +5 and claim the national individual title. Host Nebraska Wesleyan claimed the team title.