For student athletes, time to focus on school is limited, so choosing a major is challenging.
Some student athletes, like junior Kendall Gray, have a tremendously high probability of becoming a professional but also choose to put themselves through an intense time in school.
Gray said she plans to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree by spring 2019. Because golf is a full time job, Gray will finish her last year of golf eligibility in 2018 but remain at the University of Idaho for an extra year in order to accomplish her goal.
Sports are basically a full time job for student-athletes like Gray.
Golf is a love of hers, like baking and her kitten, Lucy, but it requires multiple hours per week to consistently shoot under par.
Despite the perceptions of golf being a peaceful, methodical sport, Gray’s schedule is none of the sort. She must have all of her classes done by 12:30, because Idaho’s course is not open yet, the team must take a van to Lewiston to get the daily four-hour practice in. Tuesday and Thursday mornings are mandatory team workouts, which means Kendall has to wake up to exercise at 6:45 a.m.
Her major does not make it any easier. Gray has three hours worth engineering classes each morning. After the team returns home from Lewiston around 5 p.m. each day, she uses the little free time she has to finish homework.
Tournaments are between two to four days long, and there are at least two tournaments a month. The NCAA also allows a maximum of 20 hours of practice per week for every golf team, and odds are every golf team uses every hour.
So why choose a major like mechanical engineering? Gray has her reasons.
“My dad works at Boeing in Seattle so I’ve always liked math and science,” Gray said. “I really just wanted to challenge myself. It’s really tough with a sport.”
Kendall said her father has been the role-model in her life, pushing her to be successful. She said he introduced her to golf when they were living in Fife, Washington.
“I was six when my dad first took me to the driving range,” Gray said. “At first, he didn’t want to go because he thought I’d run around and be crazy but then he said ‘Wow, you have a nice swing,’ so we decided to keep going,” Kendall said with a smile.
She said she was hooked after that — with a driving range only a short distance from her home, she took her small set of clubs and practiced almost every day.
“My favorite tournament was in Las Vegas last fall, when I shot 67 for the first time — my lowest round ever and in competition,” Kendall said. “Apparently, my parents were watching the live-stream and my dad was freaking out, yelling ‘Kendall’s five-under now’ and calling my mom every hole.”
Kendall is now a teacher and leader of the team, one of the two “team moms,” as Idaho head coach Lisa Johnson described her and her roommate, senior Amy Hasenoehrl. Being one of the only two upperclassmen of the eight golfers on the team, Kendall said she takes responsibility for making sure the underclassmen are doing their best. Her favorite benefit of the team are the great friends she has made in her teammates. But Kendall does not mind acting as a mentor, whether it be making sure they are not late or simply helping wherever she can.
“Kendall tends to be more of the serious type of leader. She’s going to lead by example but she’s always very encouraging of all her teammates,” Johnson said. “She always puts the team ahead of herself. She does a terrific job for us.”
Gray said she plans on attending the LPGA’s qualifying tournament Q-School. Her goal is to compete at a professional level once she graduates.
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com