Rhode Island’s Anna Grzebien is in no hurry.
While teenagers Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer have taken the world of big time golf by storm, Grzebien, the 2005 NCAA Division I individual champion, prefers to enjoy college life as she prepares for what she hopes will be a long professional career.
“I understand why the girls go pro, but I would miss the college atmosphere and being part of a team,” said the 20-year-old, who is majoring in psychology at Duke University. She and West Hartford, Ct.’s Liz Janangelo led the Dukies to their third NCAA team championship this past May. “I’m definitely going to finish out my four years and then I will turn pro. Duke is a great place for me to be and I’m enjoying being a student as well as a golfer.”
Grzebien has really enjoyed being a golfer lately. In addition to winning the Division I title she was selected as a first team All-America, was first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, and was chosen the most outstanding collegiate female golf in a balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools. She will receive the Honda Award given annually to the top female athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports, and is up for the Collegiate Women Athlete of the Year honor. Her stroke average was 73.88 and she logged four top five and five top 10 finishes this season before breaking through in a big way at the NCAA championships at Sunriver, Oregon.
Grzebien’s storybook year has actually been a long process. She started playing golf at the age of five and rose steadily through the ranks. Two years ago she won the New England Women’s Amateur title by shooting a final round 65 at Newport National Golf Club to force a playoff, which she won. And she captured a second straight Rhode Island Women’s Golf Association title last summer at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. while battling a painfully dislocated left thumb.
About the only thing that has slowed Grzebien down has been physical ailments, including an ailing left wrist. After winning the NCAA title she underwent laser treatment to reduce swelling and ease pain in the wrist, and then was fitted with a light cast that forced her off the golf course for almost a month. But in mid July she was back on the range and fairways, fine tuning her game for the U.S. Women’s Amateur scheduled for early August.
“The wrist has pretty much been taken care of,” she said in mid July. “The brace and not playing for a while helped. I’m a little rusty because I haven’t played but I’m getting the feeling back and I’m sure I will be fine.”
Another key moment for Grzebien came when she switched coaches to Mike Harbour, a teaching professional from Button Hole Short Course in Providence, R.I., early this year. Harbour worked to keep his pupil from pulling her tee shots, a problem that has popped up every so often.
“It was just something I had to do,” said Grzebien. “I needed a fresh look and someone with a different perspective. Mike brings a real positive approach to the game and everything has come together this year.”
Grzebien, who lives in Narragansett, hits the ball fairly long and strikes enough greens to leave her ample birdie opportunities. But it is her short game, honed with years of practice, that is her true strength.
“Even though I’m smaller than many of the other girls I hit the ball pretty long off the tee. But I’m really good around the greens. When I was younger I practiced my short game all the time and it gave me a great up and down ability.”
Grzebien said she and Janangelo, a top female amateur in her own right and future pro who is a year ahead of the Rhode Islander in college, are good friends.
“Liz has always been there for me and we hang out and go to dinner a lot. We will talk golf a little bit, but mostly it’s nice just to have someone to bounce things off of and talk to.”
Grzebien, who considered attending Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest before opting for Duke, is impressed by what Wie, Creamer and other young women are doing on the golf course.
“You see women’s golf growing and younger and younger girls turning pro. I think if they are good enough to play at the top level they should give it a try. Getting great new players in the game like Michelle and Paula will bring more people to watch the tournaments.”
For now, Grzebien is content to be a college kid and refine her game another two years. She returns to Duke for classes on Aug. 29 and will play fall golf this autumn. But with a game that seems ready for The Show, it’s only a matter of time before she joins the list of touring professional golfers who hail from the Ocean State.