Freshman Jackie Gonzalez is the first women's golfer in program history to be named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Freshman Jackie Gonzalez is the first women's golfer in program history to be named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.

Setting The Course

Holy Cross Athletics   05-15-2017

By Caroline Ahearn
Special to

Simply put, Jackie Gonzalez considers golf to be her life, and not just because she averages upwards of 40 hours a week playing and practicing when she is not in school. The West Roxbury, Mass. native has been logging hours on the golf course for as long as she can remember. “Both of my parents play golf, so I grew up with it and it immediately became a huge part of my life,” said Gonzalez. “My earliest memory on a golf course is when I was probably four or five years old, I would sit on my dad's lap while he drove the cart around the course. He had to bribe me with root beer floats to keep playing!” Gonzalez admits that the bribing continued for a while, until she formed her own interest and the reward for practice became success instead of sugary treats, like being the first Crusader in program history to be named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.                 

Gonzalez at age 5, competing with her father in a father-daughter tournament.

According to Gonzalez, playing golf in college did not even appear on her radar until high school, when she first began to play competitively for Ursuline Academy's team. However, once she began to compete, there was no stopping her. She played for the varsity team all four years, served as team captain her junior and senior years, was named team MVP three years in a row and won a variety of awards and honors.

In addition to all the awards, honors and opportunities Gonzalez has achieved by competing on her high school and college teams, the game of golf has also given her valuable experiences on an individual level. In 2014, she was one of the first 88 junior golfers to ever compete in the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship founded by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and The PGA of America. After winning the local and regional qualifiers she competed at the finals, which were held at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters. This makes Gonzalez one of the first 44 girls to ever compete at Augusta.

Gonzalez and her parents at the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship in 2014.

She has also been able to connect with her Colombian heritage through the game of golf. Even after playing at Augusta, she still considers TPC Cartagena in Colombia to be the most special place she has ever played. “Not only is it a great and beautiful course, but it reminds me of my family,” she said. “My late grandfather, who was a huge influence on my dad's golf game, and therefore on mine, makes playing in Colombia that much more special. He is always on my mind when I'm there and it is a connection I am very grateful for.”

Gonzalez golfing in Cartagena, Colombia.

Gonzalez has also shared her love for golf with young children, the same way her parents shared their passion for the sport with her when she was growing up. For the past two years, she has taught golf lessons to young kids at a summer camp. “It's pretty hilarious to teach young golfers,” said Gonzalez of her summer job. “It's great to see kids at age six having fun on a golf course, and to be a part of that is great. Some of them are more interested in using their club as a weapon, but as long as there's a smile on their face it doesn't matter!”

Her sport has always permeated into every aspect of her life, so it was no surprise that Gonzalez used golf to help her transition from high school to college. “Golf has always been a comfort for me and has always given me structure, so to enter a new environment and to have that immediate group was incredibly important.”

Gonzalez expressed her gratitude for her teammates, who have been there all season to give her advice, laugh with her and support her. “At the Patriot League Championship I was the last of the team to finish and they were all standing by the green, watching and cheering me on. I know that for the most part golf is an individual sport, but they showed me how it can be a team sport as well.”

She is also very grateful for head coach Tim Bibaud and his advice that is applicable both on and off the green. “He has a gift for finding me any time I'm in trouble on the golf course and reminding me that golf is just a game. He can always calm me down and help me figure out what to do. No matter what happens on the course, it's not the end of the world.”

With her history of success and expansive support system, she continuously thrived in her first season on the Holy Cross women's golf team. Appearing in all nine events this season, she had the team-best scoring average of 80.2 and four top-10 finishes, including two in the top-five. Most impressively, she was named the Patriot League's Co-Rookie of the Year at this year's Patriot League Championship.

Gonzalez and her parents at the 2017 Patriot League Championship.

“Winning Rookie of the Year was a huge accomplishment for me,” said Gonzalez. “It has been my goal since the fall season, so achieving it really made it feel like all my hard work paid off. I wasn't even aware that I was the first to win a major award until a few days after the tournament, and it really added to the importance of the award. The golf program is growing and hopefully there will be many more awards like this in the future.”

Yet even with her new title, Gonzalez is not planning on slowing down anytime soon. She plans to work hard all summer in order to improve her game so she can achieve her next personal goals over the next three years: lowering her scoring average and winning an event. She also wants to improve so that she can help the program grow during her time on the team.

For Gonzalez, the game of golf extends far beyond scoring averages and competitions. Every morning when she wakes up, she sees the famous Bobby Jones quote hanging on her wall: “You have to play the ball where it lies.” Her many years on the golf course have taught her valuable lessons for when she is on the course, as well as when she is off of it. “I think that quote really applies to life as well as to the game,” she said. “There is nothing we can do to change the past, only what we can do to affect the future. Fair or not, we have to deal with what we are given and keep going, on and off the course.”

Gonzalez has been playing the ball where it lies her whole life, following where her swing takes her, across the country, around the world and now at Holy Cross.

Video: Get to know Jackie Gonzalez

Stay connected with Holy Cross Athletics on Twitter @GoHolyCross as well as the women's golf team @HCrossWGolf. You can also sign up for email updates for the men's golf team and all of the other 26 Holy Cross varsity sports by going here.




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