It may sound funny, but Cassy Isagawa is working on realizing just how good she can be.
For someone who in 2010 was the Hawaii high school champion and Junior PGA champion, and has been a U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team member and three-time Maui Interscholastic League titlist - she won the 2010 league crown by 44 strokes - confidence seemingly should not be an issue.
A senior season at Baldwin High School in 2011 that was somewhat below expectations - she tied for second in the prep state tournament, one shot out of a playoff, and was 13th in the Junior PGA - is now far in the rearview mirror after the first four tournaments of her career at the University of Oregon.
Oregon’s Cassy Isagawa has finished no lower than tied for 11th place in three of her first four collegiate tournaments.
Geoff Thurner photo
Cassy Isagawa is scheduled to play in a college tournament in Kapalua in March
Geoff Thurner photo
"I have been feeling great," she said Friday. "I just had some individual meetings with my coaches today and we went over, like, my season. I guess I was kind of in shock the way I have played this season because I was struggling my senior year and even at the Junior PGA this past year. So playing the way I played this fall season I was pretty excited and I can't wait for spring."
She has tied for second, tied for third, tied for 11th and tied for 39th in loaded collegiate fields. Her 9-under-par 204 at the Stanford Invitational, where she tied for third after going to the final round with a share of the the lead, is the second-best score in program history.
More impressive is that she is 13th in the nation in adjusted scoring average on golfweek.com - and the top freshman, with an average of 72.25 strokes for 12 rounds.
Isagawa's success has led the Ducks to a Golfweek ranking of 18th - at one point this season they were 12th, an all-time best.
A lot of the success is due to the team's No. 1 player, according to coach Ria Scott.
"She wants to have some very strong finishes at the national championships and the Pac-12 championships," Scott said. "Sometimes we are afraid she sells herself short on her goals, but we don't want her to settle because we know how naturally talented she is. Combine that with a passion to improve and a passion to want to work to get better - that will go such a long way in this game."
Isagawa admits her success has surprised her.
"Yes, it does, because I know there's a lot of great players in my class in general, so to be one of the top freshmen really means a lot to me," she said. "Being 13th on Golfweek just made me really happy the way I have played this season and I just hope I can keep it up."
In her meetings with Scott and assistant coach Justin Fetcho, Isagawa was told not to be shy about how good she is.
"They both said I don't give myself enough credit for the things that I do," Isagawa said. "(Scott) says that I have this quiet confidence, so she knows that I am confident, but I am very humble about it."
Scott said she has no doubt Isagawa can succeed, and a clean slate has gone a long way to convincing her as well.
"I'm not sure she even knows what happened her senior year, but I think college was a great place for her to start over," Scott said. "I know when she came to Oregon she wasn't sure what college golf would be like and she didn't have her best tournament at Red Sky in Colorado and she came out of it not playing her best golf. Then she said, 'What happens when I'm on?' "
Isagawa began her NCAA career with a 5-over-par 77 at Red Sky in the Golfweek Conference Challenge, but followed that with a 71.
"Going into the fall season, I just told myself that (the senior season at Baldwin) is in the past and I'm starting fresh, so I did what I did and it really showed," she said. "My first round of my first college tournament I didn't shoot the greatest and I wasn't too surprised because I knew I was in a rut from my senior year, but I came back the next day and told myself, 'Don't think about the negative stuff that has been going on, like how I have been in a rut. Just try my best and really prove myself as a freshman.' "
Isagawa isn't the only Hawaii player putting up low college scores. UCLA senior Stephanie Kono is atop the Golfweek adjusted scoring average list, and junior Kristina Merkle of Tulsa is 11th - both are from Oahu.
"In Hawaii we play in crazy, windy conditions and the courses are long, too. So coming to the Mainland, I'm not saying it is easier, but we know to adapt as conditions get worse," Isagawa said. "Stephanie, Kristina and I, we all played Hawaii State Junior Golf and Hawaii State Junior Golf played a big part in my life."
The Ducks' spring season, when the numbers count even more, will include a tournament at Kapalua in March hosted by the University of Hawaii. Oregon State, which has former Maui High standout Elyse Okada, will also be in the field. Okada won four MIL titles, the last when Isagawa was a freshman.
"I definitely am looking forward to seeing her and I just really hope that there is one day that I will be able to play with her - just like old times," Isagawa said.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org