Every summer College of Charleston women's golf coach Jamie Futrell makes his annual pilgrimage to Europe in a quest to find the next great Cougar golfer.
The trip is no vacation for the veteran coach, who spends up to 10 days scouring the European youth circuit in search of his next prized recruit.
When Futrell stumbled on to Laura Fuenfstueck (pronounced FOONF-schtook) in a tournament in Germany, he knew early on that he'd found someone special.
Fuenfstueck, a native of Frankfurt, came to Charleston with an impressive resume, already ranked No. 26 in the world in women's amateur golf. Fuenfstueck had a French junior championship title to her credit before making the trek to the Lowcountry.
"After I saw her play the first time, I knew that once she stepped onto our campus, she might be the best player we've ever had," Furtrell said. "Winning the French junior title is a huge tournament and is a lot like winning the U.S. junior tournament."
Fuenfstueck has played a major role in the Cougars' march to a Colonial Athletic Association championship this spring in the team's first season in the league. Fuenfstueck also helped lead Charleston to its fourth NCAA Regional appearance. The Cougars will take part in this week's East Regional in Tallahassee, Fla.
Fuenfstueck has made a seamless transition from junior European golf to collegiate golf.
Less than a full season into her college career, Fuenfstueck has already won three tournaments in just 11 starts. That includes capturing the CAA championship two weeks ago. Her three tournament wins are one shy of the school record of four set by Steffi Kirchmayr (2006-09).
Fuenfstueck became the first freshman in CAA women's golf championship history to earn individual medalist honors. She is the second player in conference history to be named CAA Women's Golfer of the Year and CAA Rookie of the Year.
"Honestly, she's met my expectations," Futrell said of Fuenfstueck, who set a CAA single-season record with an average score of 73.21. "I felt like she was capable of playing like this. She's probably the best ball striker I've seen and certainly the best I've ever coached. If conditions are good, she's got a chance to win because she just hits the ball better than anyone else in the field."
Futrell has built an impressive pipeline bringing talented golfers from Europe. Among them are German players like Kirchmayr (2006-09), Leigh Whittaker (2008-12) and Kathy Boehm (2009-13). Fuenfstueck is one of three players from Germany on this year's squad. The others are sophomore Julia Neumann (Berlin) and fellow freshman Vici Drechsler (Olching).
"Knowing that other players from Germany came to Charleston and were successful made the decision a lot easier," said Fuenfstueck, who also had a late offer from Southern California. "I wanted to come to the United States and still play at a high level, but leaving my family and my home wasn't easy. There are things about home that I really miss."
In nearly 40 rounds of golf, Fuenfstueck has hit an 85 percent of greens in regulation. Futrell likes to joke that the freshman doesn't have a short game because she rarely is forced to use it.
"She just doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Futrell said.
If there's a weakness in Fuenfstueck's game, it's with her putting.
"She leaves a lot of birdies out there," Futrell said. "Once she figures out her putting, her potential is unlimited."