Grunden enjoying fast start on women’s golf team

Chris Rambo and Chris Rambo

For the head coach of any college or high school sports team, one of the most pleasant surprises is when a freshman comes into the fold and can make an immediate and indelible impact both on and off the field.

This season, Bowling Green women’s golf coach Stephanie Young has enjoyed that particular pleasure from Susy Grunden, a precocious 18-year-old Texan who, in just one semester, has established herself as a prime go-to option for Young and the Falcons.

At present, Grunden’s scoring average stands at 79.20.

With a solid spring semester, it’s possible that she could surpass Jenny Schnipke’s single season record of 78.54 set in 2003-2004.

Grunden collected four top-ten finishes during the fall semester, highlighted by a three-stroke victory at the Zippy Invitational — just her fourth collegiate tournament.

While her on-course performance has rendered obvious the claim that she is more than capable of holding her own at this level, it is Grunden’s uncanny level of maturity for a freshman that truly has Young raving.

“I can’t emphasize enough what a class act Susy is,” Young said. “For a freshman, she is extremely well-rounded. She has made the adjustment from high school to college look uncommonly easy.”

That Grunden has acclimated herself so well, however, doesn’t come as a big surprise to Young.

The fifth-year coach said she spotted distinguished characteristics in Grunden from the moment she first saw her play.

“It was funny,” Young said. “I was actually in Texas to recruit someone else, but I happened to catch a glimpse of Susy and I came away very impressed with how she handled herself. Not only did she possess superb golfing ability, but she also had this tremendous poise that really stood out to me. Even though Susy was only a [high school] sophomore, I knew I wanted her to be part of our program.”

That initial glimpse would be followed by many more visits from Young to the Lone Star State over the next couple of years, as she tried to convince Grunden to travel hundreds of miles north and attend a school she had never even heard of.

“I had absolutely no idea where Bowling Green was. I had never heard of the school until coach Young started recruiting me,” Grunden said.

Although she also fielded offers from several other Division I and II schools, Grunden decided on Bowling Green after making her first visit in September of 2008.

“It just seemed like a good fit for me,” Grunden said. “I was very excited about the vision that coach Young had for the program.”

Although it was Grunden who poured the requisite amount of individual time and energy into improving her game, she is very quick to point out that she never would have achieved the dream of a college scholarship without plenty of help along the way — proving the saying that while golf may be a game played largely in solitude, it is a journey that no player makes alone.

Grunden’s sense of excellence was imbued largely by her family, a clan in which nothing but the very best effort was accepted, whether the venue was the playing field or the classroom.

Grunden grew up on a vast 2,500 acre residence as the middle child in a brood of seven siblings, ranging from 12-32 years old.

Her father Ricky, a successful financial advisor, and her mother Marsha, a stay-at-home mom, each drove their children to excel at whatever they were doing, while working hard to provide every possible opportunity for them to do so.

“My parents were and are completely unwavering in their support of me,” Grunden said. “I have no idea what I would do without them.”

It was Grunden’s father who first nudged her onto the golf course, gaining membership into a local club where Susy spent a great deal of time practicing and selling his daughter on the many life-lasting benefits the game has to offer.

“I was about 13 when my father convinced me that golf was the way to go,” Grunden said. “He saw my potential as a golfer and said that besides being a possible way to pay for college, golf would also be helpful in my professional career as far as networking is concerned.”

However, in a family as large as the Grunden’s, there is only so much attention that can be paid to one child without marginalizing the others.

Dave Jones, President and Executive Director of the Texas Junior Golf Tour — who also played football at Air Force and flew an F-16 in the Gulf War — happened to be close family friends with the Grunden’s.

Jones willingly allowed Susy to travel with him and his family all over the vast state of Texas and participate in tournaments.

“With all of my brothers and sisters, there was no way that my parents could have taken me across the state to all those junior tournaments,” Grunden said. “The Joneses really embraced me as part of their family. Their daughter Sara and I played together all the time and became best friends. There is no way I would be here today without them. I am so thankful for all that they did.”

It was on the Texas Junior Golf Tour that Grunden refined her golf skills and gained the competitive fire that made her an appealing college recruit.

“I went to a private high school where we did not have a golf team,” Grunden said. “So, playing on the Junior Golf Tour was one of the only places where I could work on my game while in competition. My experience there really helped prepare me mentally and physically for college golf.”

After a tireless summer spent working out the kinks in her game, Grunden wasted little time in getting down to business once the fall semester rolled around.

She captured her first collegiate victory in only her fourth try, overcoming a disappointing 42nd place finish at Penn State, followed by an all-day van ride, to win at Akron.

“At Penn State, I really let my emotions get the better of me for the first time in a while,” Grunden said. “However, I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on it because we hopped in the van and went straight to Akron. There I did a much better job of focusing and not letting one bad hole get me down. I guess it paid off.”

Young views Grunden’s breakthrough in the fall as merely the beginning of what she hopes will be four years of great memories.

“I definitely view Susy as one of our main leaders down the line and a big part of the program we are trying to build,” Young said. “On the course, in the classroom, and on the practice range, she has everything we want; it has been a real privilege to coach her so far.”