Everyone knows that golf is a highly mental sport, so one would think that the top-scoring golfer on the nation's ninth-ranked team would put a lot of pressure on himself and on his game.
"I'm just trying to have fun out there, I'm not going to lie," Duke junior Jake Grodzinsky said. "If I'm out there not having fun, something is probably wrong-and it's been working. I play better when I have fun and have fun when I play well."
And playing good golf is exactly what Grodzinsky-the No. 9 golfer in the national individual rankings-has done. On a team with three other players who received All-American recognition last year, the unheralded junior has risen to the top of the team's scoring ranks.
"Expectations for Jake were very high entering this year and he is certainly living up to them," head coach Rod Myers said. "He really seems to be having fun out there."
Entering the season, Grodzinsky only had recorded one top-10 finish in his two previous seasons. But on the heels of a strong performance this summer, the junior has come out firing in the fall.
In Duke's first three tournaments, Grodzinsky has finished no lower than ninth place. At the Fall Preview, a tournament that featured 11 of the top 15 teams in the country, he finished in an impressive ninth-place tie, equaling the performance of defending NCAA Champion James Lepp of Washington. That weekend, Grodzinsky delivered two of his team-leading six rounds under par for the year.
"He's gonna be playing continually against the best players," Myers said. "We're going to be playing against those guys many times. It is going to give us every chance to see how Jake stacks up against the best in the country."
He played the first three rounds at 14-over-par, but notched a one-under 69 on the final day-Duke's best round of the tournament.
"The last round of the NCAAs, I finally played a good round," Grodzinsky said. "That gave me some confidence-putting a decent round together. Golf is a weird game, it comes and goes."
But Grodzinsky knows that he, like any golfer, has significant room for improvement. In his most recent tournament, the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, a triple-bogey eight-the dreaded snowman-hurt his final round and cost him a chance at a very high finish. Instead, he finished tied for eighth.
"I can't argue with results, but I could be playing better," Grodzinsky said. "Last tournament, I putted poorly. Even if I had putted mediocre, I could've been top three. It's just sloppy things. I'm not quite getting the most out of my game."
By virtue of Grodzinsky's success, his coach believes that the junior has been pushed into a leadership role simply by motivating other Blue Devils. But Myers also noted that it was certainly not his primary position.
"Anytime a guy plays well, he's going to be a leader in one way or another," Myers said. "He's not a leader off the course, but more of a great teammate-he's got a good sense of humor."
The light-hearted Grodzinsky was quick to agree.
"I don't think of myself as leader, really, but more as comic relief," Grodzinsky said. "Hopefully I can just lead by example."
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