By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If not for an unforgiving youth tennis coach somewhere in Las Vegas, who knows what sport Morgan Goldstein would excel at these days.
Goldstein is a sophomore on the University of Iowa women’s golf team that will participate in the Big Ten Championships from April 23-25 in Maineville, Ohio. When she was 8 years old, Goldstein became discouraged with tennis after her “very harsh” coach drove her to tears nearly every day.
“I went to my dad and said, ‘That’s it, I quit. I can’t do this anymore. I’m not having fun and I’m only eight years old,’” Goldstein said.
Her father, Bruce, belonged to a country club and took Morgan and her younger brother Aiden to the range to swing a golf club. Morgan hit the ball and hit it well.
“Alright, it’s time to put you in some golf lessons,” Morgan remembers her father saying.
“My whole golf team has made a big impact on my college career. They are my best friends, and they make my experience at Iowa great.”Morgan Goldstein
A year later, she participated in U.S. Kids Golf tournaments. By the time she was 12, Goldstein entered American Junior Golf Association events and the level of competition continued to escalate. One of her biggest accomplishments came as a 13-year-old on April 5, 2015, at Augusta National Golf Club. That’s where Goldstein won the girls’ 12-13 division of the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals. (Watch it HERE)
“She had a bright junior career and like many golfers, went through a tough time,” Iowa head coach Megan Menzel said. “She has been through it all at a young age and she learned from the adversity.”
As a senior at Faith Lutheran (Nevada) High School, Goldstein was named first-team All-Southern Nevada, All-Mountain Region and All-Northwest League.
Iowa assistant coach Michael Roters followed Goldstein’s junior career and when she took an official visit, Goldstein fell in love with the campus, facilities, and coaches.
“It was good for me to get away (from Las Vegas),” Goldstein said. “I grew as an individual and with the independence side of things. It was good for me to figure out different situations on my own.”
There wasn’t a playbook to navigate the coronavirus pandemic that interrupted Goldstein’s freshman season as a Hawkeye. She played 17 rounds during the combined fall/spring season of 2019-20, averaging 76.6 strokes per 18 holes with three rounds at or below par and one top 10 finish. Iowa’s final spring competition was at the Entrada Classic in Utah. Goldstein fired a first-round, career-low 71 and finished seventh with a 221.
“It was kind of hard for me to transition and get organized,” Goldstein said. “As soon as I was starting to get into the process of everything is when COVID hit.”
The Hawkeyes didn’t have a fall season in 2020 but kicked things off in early February. Goldstein has gradually regained the rhythm she had when her freshman season ended. At the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Classic on March 29-30, she finished third and carded a career-low 69 in the second round. Goldstein followed that with a runner-up performance at the Northern Iowa Invitational on April 10-11.
“The biggest thing we have noticed with Morgan is she has grown as a player and individual,” Menzel said. “She is maturing at the college level and figuring out what it takes to balance everything. She loves being a Hawkeye and loves being part of a team. That makes her pretty special.”
While Goldstein grows as a collegian, her golf game has become more consistent. It has a lot to do with emphasizing and sticking to her “process.”
“That has helped me improve tremendously,” she said. “When I’m over a putt for birdie, I don’t think ‘Oh gosh, I have to make this putt for birdie.’ I will be like, ‘It’s a 12-footer, it’s uphill, it breaks left to right’ and put a good stroke on it. Instead of thinking about the outcome, I think about the process and the details of the shot. I do that with my chipping, irons, everything.”
Menzel agrees and is seeing enhanced results.
“She has fallen in love with the process and takes it one shot at a time,” Menzel said. “She can compete with the best in the Big Ten. With her improvement, we’re hoping she can be in the top third of the Big Ten, which would be a great showing for her.”
The Hawkeyes have also enjoyed recent team success. In its four most recent competitions, Iowa finished second, second, first and then 14th at the Indiana Invitational. During that span, Goldstein had an average of 74.5.
A sport and recreation management major, Goldstein intends to make a career out of golf. It makes sense. It’s not that she was playing golf when she came out of the womb, but it was close.
“My mom (Karri) played golf with my dad while she was pregnant with me,” Goldstein said.
This summer, Goldstein will return to Las Vegas for an internship with Titleist, a golf equipment company. In that role, she will travel to tournaments and shadow Titleist representatives.
“I have always used Titleist balls,” Goldstein said with a laugh. Then she turned her focus to the season finale. “I would love to place well in the Big Ten Tournament.”
She isn’t referring to solely individual results.
“Winning individually and winning as a team again,” Goldstein said. “My whole golf team has made a big impact on my college career. They are my best friends, and they make my experience at Iowa great.”