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On the Links with Jennie Arseneault

Junior golfer Jennie Arseneault is coming off a strong performance at the Bryan National Collegiate where she was UVa’s top finisher. She is back at full speed for the Cavaliers after back problems last spring prevented her from competing late in the season. Arseneault comes from an athletic family. Her father, David, just completed his 19th season as the head men’s basketball coach at Grinnell College in Iowa. Annually one of the top scoring programs in the nation, Grinnell averaged 107.9 points per game this year. Her brother, David, averaged 16.6 points per game and a nation’s-best 10.6 assists per outing. He is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard.

Question: How is playing golf compared to this time last season when you were not able to complete two tournaments?
I definitely appreciate it a lot more now. Before, I think I took playing well for granted. I’ve had to work so hard to get it back to where I was; I really appreciate the good rounds that much more.

Question: What was the nature of your back problem last season?
It was a muscular problem. I injured my lower back because of the way I swing. I shut down all of the muscles in my lower back and stopped using them. So, the injury kept getting worse and worse because I would never strengthen it. I had to take four months off this summer. Coming back has been extremely slow. When I first started practicing again, it was twice a week for 20 minutes each day. I’ve had to keep building up from there. I’ve had a couple of setbacks where I’ve had to sit some days out because my back has been sore. It is back to full strength now. So now I am just trying to get my golf game back to where it was.

Question: How frustrating was it to stop playing last season?
It was so frustrating because we had so many seniors and it was coach (Jan) Mann’s last year. I just wanted to keep playing for our team. I think I probably pushed myself too hard to play and I should have just been sitting out in the first place.

Question: How hard was it to put away your clubs?
It was very hard because I couldn’t do anything for four months. I keep telling myself I had to do it in order to have the career I want to have as a golfer.

Question: Did your time away from the game change your perspective on golf?
It really has. I took so much for granted before in going out and playing a round. Before, I would play a round and every shot was painful. It is completely different now and I really appreciate being able to play a round with no pain. I just appreciate the game a lot more now.

Question: You’ve switched to one of the new square-head drivers. How has that gone?
With my old driver, the ball went too high and I could not get enough roll. It is actually the shaft in the driver I think that is so amazing. I put so much topspin on the ball it will actually carry further than my old driver, plus, when it hits the ground; it seems to roll much farther than my old driver. It has been a big help. I have probably picked up 20 to 30 yards using it.

Question: Was it awkward to use at first?
Yeah, but now I look at a round one and it looks funny to me.

Question: Last year you had to withdraw from the ACC Tournament due to your back. How much are you looking forward to returning this year?
I've been looking forward to that tournament for a while. I’m really looking forward to helping our team. I feel like I haven’t done that. Last week (Bryan National) was actually the first time I have had two solid rounds in a tournament. I’ve just been improving every week and I am getting back to the mental state that I was in before as a competitive golfer.

Question: How did your father’s Grinnell team do this year?
They had some injuries, so they didn’t have a great year, but I think they were third in their conference. They are still scoring a lot of points.

Question: Didn’t your brother set an NCAA record for assists in a game?
He had 34. Right after the game my mom texted me and said he set an NCAA record and had 34 assists. I thought she had mis-typed it, so I called her and said, “Are you kidding me? Did you mean 34 or 14?”

Question: Did he just pass the ball the entire game?
No, he also scored 22 points.

Question: Do you ever play horse with your brother?
Not anymore. I used to play basketball and he used to play golf. As we have both gotten better at our sports, we just quit playing the other ones.




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Jeff White

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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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