It may only be her second year of college golf, but Daniella Hopper is already making an impact. The Barrie native, now a sophomore for the Niagara Purple Eagles women’s golf team, is hitting her spring season in stride.
She put up great rounds in the fall for the National Collegiate Athletic Association program to end that portion of the year on a high.
“As a sophomore, I’m definitely more confident than last year,” Hopper said. “Last year, as a freshman, I was a little nervous coming into a Division-I program, but now what I know what to expect and can really go after my goals.”
The Purple Eagles hosted the final event of the fall season at Niagara Falls Country Club and, although Niagara lost the team portion of the match, Hopper would fire the lowest score of the tournament – and her young career. She shot a 77.
“I guess I sort of put everything together for the last event,” she said. “Shooting that well and shooting a career low is definitely bringing some momentum into the spring season for me. My confidence is up right now and I know the spring season will go well for our team.”
As was the case last year, Hopper remains one of the youngest, but most reliable, golfers on a squad that has improved on the course.
“We had a transfer come in this year, but we don’t have any freshmen, so I’ve been with this group of girls for two years,” she said. “We’ve gotten stronger together, become more a family and become a stronger team.”
There are notable advantages and disadvantages in playing for a school located less than three hours from Barrie. One of the difficult aspects for a golfer is how short the season can be.
“In the fall and spring, when we’re playing tournaments, we’ll practice 2-3 hours every day,” said Hopper, whose Purple Eagles autumn campaign was over by Canadian Thanksgiving. “In the off-season, we lift a few times a week, as well as doing cardio and core, strength, and stability training to help build up for a stronger spring season.”
On the upside, Hopper is able to come home and visit her parents, Paul and Angela, and her older sister, Julia, from time to time.
“I’m very fortunate to be so close to home and still at a Division-I program,” said Hopper, who came back to Barrie for Easter. “If I were in a program that was further south, I’d probably only be coming home at Christmas. It’s nice that it’s only around three hours away and I can see my family a lot, which is important to me, but I’m also able to play in school at a Division-I level.”
After that long weekend, she returned to Niagara, with a hectic month of assignments and tournaments ahead.
“I’m taking six courses right now, so it’s difficult to schedule your courses and practice, but professors and coaches are pretty flexible, so it’s manageable to spend enough time for your athletics and your academics,” Hopper said. “It’s a little more difficult in the spring, because we’re in the hardest part of our semester and we’re playing tournaments. We’re always studying on the road, completing assignments and reading.”
An accounting major, Hopper has picked up a lot both in the classroom and on the course, where her game is as strong as ever.
“Definitely my focus and my mental game have improved,” she said. “Some days, I’ll be playing 36 holes, or playing for 10 hours, and it’s mentally exhausting. At the college level, I’ve been able to maintain that focus throughout the entire round. My short game has also gotten a lot better. My chipping and putting has gotten a lot more precise. That definitely takes care of a lot of strokes and where I’ve seen a lot of my scoring dropping. It’s where I’ve been improving the most.”
Photo courtesy of Niagara University