A Freshman Success Story
By Dave Lawrence
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
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
"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
"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