JIM HUNSLEY: Grassel impresses on, off golf course

2012-10-03T17:00:00Z 2012-10-04T02:15:44Z JIM HUNSLEY: Grassel impresses on, off golf courseJim Hunsley Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 03, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

Kelly Grassel made history Saturday afternoon at the IHSAA girls golf state finals, but that moment has hardly consumed the Chesterton senior.

"I'm always looking to the next step," Grassel said. "I'm now thinking about how I can get better.

"Maybe I should just take a second and look back at what I've done?"

What Grassel did was break the state finals 36-hole mark by two strokes with her 137 total en route to medalist repeat. She remains the only local golfer to have won the state individual crown in the 40-year existence of the tournament. She's also the only local golfer to ever place in the top two at the event.

I believe those two facts alone make Grassel's two-year run one of the most impressive local prep breakthrough performances. Munster's Mary Hill won the only local girls state tennis title in 2010, but four other area players had made it to the final match.

What Grassel has done is more of a leap than a step.

"I knew if I worked harder than anyone else I could do it," Grassel said. "I had to prove that I was the best."

Just as important in my eyes is Grassel's tireless work ethic doesn't stop her from being selfless both on and off the golf course.

Grassel is the second local golfer to win the state's mental attitude award.

"The game of golf is all about integrity and sportsmanship," said Grassel, who has a 3.8 grade-point average. "It was great to win the award, and there's a $1,000 (scholarship) for the school."

Grassel is in the second year of raising money for the American Junior Golf Association's "Birdies for Charity" program. Grassel raised over $2,000 last year.

During our phone interview, she said that a local boys and girls club asked her to speak to children about goals and academic achievement.

"My parents (Rick and Mary) brought me up to be respectful and grateful for what you have," she said. "It's about having a good attitude."

She has the respect of her teammates, despite being the focal point for most of the media coverage.

"That means so much to me," Grassel said. "I've seen teams where there's one star player, and the other players don't get along with her.

"I'm just me, and I know they would tell me if I was being cocky. To have their support, even though I get a lot of attention, helps me play so much better."

That respect carries over to opponents like Valparaiso junior Harley Dubsky, who was third last Saturday and has played against Grassel for over 10 years.

"It's not as big of a blow when you do know the person; you know they're both a good player and person'" Dubsky said of Grassel. "It's not like I think she doesn't deserve it. We look past those petty things, and there's no jealousy."

Finally, she doesn't let golf define her, which might help her stay grounded in her approach to both the game and life.

"I try not to confuse golf with the rest of my life,"she said. "If I have a bad day of golf, that doesn't make me a bad person.

"I've had a lot of success and a lot of failure, and I think that helps me relax."


This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.hunsley@nwi.com.

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