USF’s Christina Miller finds her niche on golf course

jdill@bradenton.comOctober 12, 2011 

EAST MANATEE -- Christina Miller’s interest in golf was waning.

And she felt homesick.

It was last year and Miller was a freshman on the University of Mississippi’s women’s golf team.

“My desire to play golf was going down,” Miller said. “I didn’t find it fun anymore, because they treat it like a job.”

A change of scenery was needed, so Miller transferred to the University of South Florida.

So far, she hasn’t missed a beat -- recording individual victories in two of three tournaments this fall.

That includes the annual USF/Waterlefe Invitational which wrapped up 54-holes of golf at the Waterlefe Golf & River Club on Tuesday.

Miller’s 219 total, including a 3-under par 69 in Monday’s afternoon round, buoyed the Bulls to the team title.

The nine-team event featured several local schools from around the state like Florida Gulf Coast University, defending champion Daytona State College and Florida Atlantic University. The two-day tournament also boasted programs such as Houston Baptist University, Southern Mississippi, University of South Alabama and Troy (Ala.) University.

But the day belonged to USF and Miller.

The former IMG Academies standout entered Tuesday’s final round tied with Houston Baptist’s Paige Gibson for the lead.

Gibson, though, ballooned to a 79 as Miller closed with a 74.

Her Bulls teammate, Amy West, was in the hunt as well.

So Miller said she figured she’d win by parring out the last four holes following a birdie on the par-5 14th.

However, a double bogey struck her scorecard on No. 15. But Miller rebounded with a birdie on the next hole and then calmly sank a 20-foot right-to-left curling putt on No. 18 to earn a one-shot victory over West.

“I thought it was probably to tie or win, so I treated it as such,” Miller said. “It was a moment out of top plays of the week. I did the Tiger (Woods) fist pump, and it went in. It was really cool.”

Miller, who relocated to Bradenton about 10 years ago, said she’s enjoyed her time at USF thus far.

It’s much different than her brief tenure at Ole Miss.

“I come home every weekend and take a break, where as there it was constant go, and you get burned out,” Miller said.

Miller has found her form since arriving at USF, where she’s logged two tournament victories and a third-place showing out of three fall events.

The other victory came in the Golfweek Program Challenge, where she fired a final round 5-under par 66 for a two-shot triumph about a month ago.

“The coaching staff, for sure, I can’t say enough about them,” said Miller about her sudden rekindled passion for golf. “They motivate us and push us, but they don’t make it a job whereas we wouldn’t want to come and perform for them.”

Southern Miss finished runner-up with a 912 total. USF’s winning tally was 895, as four out of five scores were used for each round.

Braden River High alum Kristin Swindell fired a 235 total to help Florida Gulf Coast snag a tie for fourth.

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