By NICOLE GADDIE
Pressure is a funny thing.
It wakes you up at 5:30 a.m. for workouts because you know your body won’t be able to survive 11-hour, 36-hole rounds otherwise.
It forces you to forgo social activities on weekends in order to complete the immense amount of homework growing infinitely larger with each tournament trip.
It keeps you on the range until dark because you know you won’t be able to sleep well thinking about that slight pull you couldn’t shake.
The glamor of the “college athlete” is widely misinterpreted. Plump scholarships and special treatment in class are never things I’ve experienced.
I am a college golfer. I have spent the last 12 years of my life honing my swing and tackling my mentality with the aim of decreasing the number of strokes it takes me to get a small, dimpled ball into a hole.
In two weeks, I will play in the last tournament of my collegiate career, the Western Athletic Conference Championships in Mesa, Ariz. The finality of the situation has prodded me to look back and reflect on the remarkable journey golf has taken me.
Golf entered my life when I was 10 years old. Like many other children I was fascinated by the child-sized car known as a golf cart. I accompanied my parents to the course on weekends for the rare chance of driving it. My mother eventually enrolled me in a golf clinic at our local country club and week after week my skills improved.
My instructor suggested I enter local tournaments, where I could learn the difference between playing and competing. With my first tournament came my first dose of the psychological side of the sport. Nerves overcame my ability to control my body movements, causing my delicate swing to break down like a jammed machine. As a result, my score rose well above 100.
Yet with each tournament my anxiety improved. I took a job in the cart barn at a local golf course to pay my green fees. Soon I began to compete against top-ranked individuals in the state and later traveled throughout the country to compete against national and international players. My playing partners became lifelong friends and I’m happy to say I now have a place to stay in several different countries. As junior golfers we all had one goal: Play on a college team.
Seattle had always fascinated me. Maybe it was because of “Frasier” or watching the 1998 PGA Championship played at Sahalee Country Club. When the golf coach at Seattle University took interest in my potential, I jumped at the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest. Choosing a college was a lengthy process. In addition to shopping for a new home, I was also shopping for a temporary family and support structure.
I arrived in Seattle in the middle of December. It was cold, wet, and gray. Not exactly the magic I had pictured. But the opportunity to play golf year round outweighed the weather. I signed a letter of intent in the spring and packed my bags the next fall.
I can’t describe the next four years in a book, let alone 800 words, but I will say that the challenges and successes I’ve experienced on my team have shaped me into the person I am today. I grew up an independent only child. Golf was a sport I could play and practice on my own. In college, however, I learned that it takes a team of five to succeed. My teammates have become sisters, my coach a mentor. There is no denying that a well-struck putt for birdie on the last hole is invigorating, but the relationships you make during the round will prove to be far more lasting.
Pressure to win and how a player reacts when he/she doesn’t tell the greatest truths about them as an individual. Wearing the colors of my school gives me great pride. And the calmness found on the course seeps into all aspects of life.
Sunday, I joined my team to watch the final round of the Masters. There was a time when I dreamed of becoming the first woman to compete at the prestigious event. Now I realize that I don’t need to compete to let my love for the game flourish.
Come Sunday in a couple weeks I’ll sleep with peace, not pressure as I say goodbye to college golf.
Nicole Gaddie, 21, is the senior women’s golf captain for Seattle University and plays her final rounds of college golf April 25-27 at the WAC Championships. The Journalism major from Salt Lake City, who served as SU’s student body president as a junior, will graduate in June.
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