During her first year at Auburn University, golfer Cydney Clanton stood up during a meeting with coach Kim Evans and declared that she wanted to be the national freshman player of the year.
By the end of the spring season, she was.
Coming off a strong fall season, Clanton, now a junior, is now one position away from being the top-ranked college golfer in the country. A 2007 Concord High graduate, she most likely will begin the spring season behind only Jennifer Song of Southern California .
A state champion for the Spiders in 2006, Clanton was also a highly ranked junior player before she landed at Auburn. Evans said she realized Clanton had lofty goals during the recruiting process.
As a freshman, Clanton started her season by tying for third in her very first collegiate tournament and was eventually named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.
Clanton finished the year with a 23rd place finish at the NCAA Championship. A first team all-American, Clanton was selected as the national freshman of the year by the National Golf Coaches Association.
"Overachieved? No," Clanton said. "I try to set my goals high and (being national freshman of the year) was just one that I ended up accomplishing. There could have been improvements for the year. I was just pretty consistent throughout my freshman year."
While it would have been a good year for most collegiate golfers, Clanton's sophomore year was sub-par according to her greatest critic: herself. The accolades after her freshman year disappeared and, Clanton says, she "just couldn't get anything going."
With college golf being split into a fall prep season and the spring NCAA championship season, Clanton had last summer to get focused. Continuing to work with long-time coach David Ross at River Run Golf Club, she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links in Boston, was runner-up at the North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst and qualified for the Sweet 16 at The U.S. Women's Amateur in St. Louis.
Clanton's game was back and so was her confidence. With something to prove to herself, the fall season became Clanton's personal comeback tour.
Starting with the Hooters Collegiate Match Play event at Daytona Beach, where she took medalist honors, Clanton had top five finishes in all four fall events. She finished second at the Mason Rudolph Championship at Vanderbilt.
Playing her last two tournaments in her home state, Clanton finished fifth at the Tar Heel Invitational at Chapel Hill. Her most resounding victory of the fall came at the NCAA Fall Preview, hosted by UNC Wilmington.
A collection of the nation's best golfers, the Fall Preview featured nine of the top 10 college teams ranked by Golf World magazine, including Auburn. Clanton shot three straight rounds of 2-under par and won by five strokes. Golfweek magazine named her the national golfer of the week.
Clanton is a strong candidate for a pro career, but she says she's not ready now. She has known since she was 6 years old that she wants to be a professional but she wants to get as much advice from coaches and players about when to make the commitment.
For now, Clanton is focused on the spring college season. Auburn will open play at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational on Feb. 22.