PORTSMOUTH — Obtaining the opportunity to play for a college program takes a great deal of hard work.
However, seeing that opportunity all the way through for four years and becoming that institution’s first four-year player in the process?
That’s definitely a special accomplishment.
As the first four-year female golfer in Shawnee State history, Pataskala native Emily Hayes’ enjoyment of becoming the first female signee, and subsequent four-year golfer, in program history went well beyond just continuing her passion at the next level — because it also meant forming lifelong relationships with people that she grew to care for and appreciate.
“Well, I feel like that for me, it was special because I had the honor of being the first-ever female that signed with the SSU women’s golf program,” Hayes said. “Plus for me, it isn’t completely about playing golf, but also meeting all of the people along the way. (Dave) Hopkins is a great guy and was always there for me. My teammates have become some of my closest friends, and even the girls and coaches from opposing teams have been amazing to get to know.”
Being part of a program — and making an upstart commitment to it — was nothing new to Hayes.
At Watkins Memorial High School in Pataskala, Hayes became a multiple-time all-Licking County League honoree, ultimately obtaining first-team all-LCL honors in her senior year — after earning second-team all-LCL honors prior to her final year with the Warriors.
Hayes finished in a tie for 33rd overall in the OHSAA Division I sectional tournament by shooting a 100, then improved her overall score by two strokes en route to shooting a 98 to tie for 28th overall in the following season.
“It wasn’t that much different than playing in Portsmouth,” Hayes said of her time at Watkins Memorial. “I had a great coach (Tiffany Shaeffer) who always motivated our team and amazing teammates. I’ll admit that we had our struggles to keep the women’s golf afloat at my high school, but I believe that those struggles helped me thrive for my college experiences.”
Throughout her college career, Hayes arguably got more out of the college scene than most people do over the course of their lives.
While playing college golf at Shawnee State, the senior learned a very valuable tool that has been crucial in her obtaining a 3.59 GPA as a plastics engineering major.
“Golf has helped me grow as a person and as an individual in several ways, but one sticks out the most,” Hayes said. “One thing my dad has always told me about golf is that the game of golf is just like life, and that lesson has always stuck with me. In golf, there are holes that you play well, and others that don’t go the way that you planned. It’s just like life. There are days that go well, and there are others that don’t go the way that you intended them to go. It’s all about the way that you perceive it. If you focus on the bad holes in golf or the bad things in life, neither will get any better. However, if you look at it in the fact that the good holes wouldn’t be as impactful without the bad holes, it teaches you to have a positive mindset. The mind is a powerful tool, so we have to make sure that we use it to its best ability.”
With her time at Shawnee State nearing its conclusion, the reflection of where the program was in its infancy to where it is now stands out to Hayes — as do the memories that her teammates, both former and current, have left behind.
“Four years seems like a long time, but it goes by a lot faster than it seems,” Hayes said. “It’s been amazing to watch the team grow together and individually. It’s what I love about golf. You want to do your best as a person, but you also want your team to do its best, so we work together helping each other to improve our craft and skill. I also know that anytime I’m with my teammates, I’ll be laughing. Those are my favorite memories. It didn’t matter if it was raining, freezing or sunny, we always found a way to laugh.”