A Freshman Success Story
By Dave Lawrence

For most of us, a trip to the golf course is a break from the daily grind, a way to get away from the hassles of our everyday lives. For Vanderbilt golfer Joni Gossett, a day on the links is a regular part of what has become a very successful freshman year.

Joni, a native of Germantown, Tenn., has made the adjustment from high school to high-level collegiate competition, both on the course and in the classroom, quite smoothly. She sees the key to this transition as being able to manage her time.

"From not having my mom come in at night telling me turn off the light to finding a balance for everything and do well has been the biggest jump."

But her success should come as no surprise to anyone. Although she's only been playing seriously for about five years (she actually first took up the game about the age of nine, but gave it up to focus on her musical talent, and played the harp for two and a half years), she has an impressive résumé including two wins in amateur tournaments last summer.

For golf fans, the Gossett name is a familiar one. Joni's older brother David is a member of the PGA Tour. The former two-time All-American at the University of Texas won the 1999 U.S. Amateur Championship and earned his first win on tour at the 2001 John Deere Classic. His success hasn't put any pressure on Joni, though.

"I'm happy for his success, but that doesn't spark my success. It's an individual game. If I were competing with him, I'd drive myself insane. I'm happy with what I'm doing."

Having someone who has made the adjustment to big-time collegiate golf so close to her is an advantage that not everyone has.

"I talk to him and he definitely understands. He has a very understanding and supportive ear to whatever it is that I'm going through. I do talk to him pretty regularly. He is a good sounding board, he's done college, and he did well in school on top of golf, so he helps me a lot."

Another great feeling that Joni has felt on the golf course has come from the two times when she has hit a hole-in-one.

"I had one on a real course (#11 at TPC at Southwind in Memphis) while playing with my dad, and another while I was out on a par-3 course playing by myself. It's almost a little bit of a shock. It's awesome, you just feel lucky."

Through all of her personal achievements, Joni's favorite golf memory to date has been a team success. She and her Commodore teammates set school records at the Stanford/Pepsi Intercollegiate with an opening day score of 280 (lowest score ever for a Vanderbilt foursome) and three day total of 872, setting the mark for team scoring for a three round event.

"My favorite memory? I'd say our first round team score at the Stanford tournament. A team record, and the second lowest team total at that tournament. It was really good, we really connected."

Joni has definitely set goals for her career at Vanderbilt. Of the top five golfers that compete for the team, four will be back next season, and Joni definitely sees potential for the first SEC championship for the team.

"I'd like to see Vanderbilt golf rise and truly establish a national presence and start a new tradition."

Head coach Martha Freitag appreciates the contribution that Gossett has made in her first year in Nashville.

"Joni's done a great job for us. She's stepped up and shot some really good rounds for us and she's done a great job in the classroom. I think her best contribution is that she brings a really positive attitude and a tremendous work ethic. You put that together will her skill, and give her a little bit more time to get some experience, you're going to have a really great player."

Coach Freitag feels good about her team heading into this weekend's SEC Championships in Athens, Ga.

"We've been close all spring. If we can get all four or five of them firing for three days, we'll be in good shape. Everyone is close to having a breakout week. We've prepared well and we're looking forward to a good performance."

Joni doesn't want to get too far ahead of herself. She's not in any hurry to follow her brother into the professional ranks.

"At this point, I want to focus on getting my game as good as it can get, and getting a great education as well."

Gossett and her teammates are preparing for the May 9-11 NCAA Regional Tournament. The Commodores are coming off a fourth place SEC Championships finish in which Gossett played her last 36 holes just six-over par.


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
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