On its face, the fact that Olivia Stoll is playing in the coming days with the Grand Valley State at the Division II NCAA Women’s Golf Championships is not surprising, given her pedigree.
She is, after all, arguably the first Daughter of Mid-Michigan golf. Her mother is Michigan State Women’s Golf Coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. Her father, Jim, caddied full-time on the LPGA tour last summer for former MSU star Sarah Burnham. Her parents just bought two golf courses.
But given Olivia’s relationship with the sport, that she and her mother are both headed to separate NCAA tournament events this weekend is an experience they never thought they’d share.
“She never really wanted anything to do with it,” Stacy said.
Olivia’s fondest childhood Memories on the golf course involved looking for turtles at night and checking out the geese as she tagged along while her parents played nine holes. That wasn’t that long ago.
“We just always tried to make it fun, just kind of hoping somewhere down the line that she really would enjoy the game,” Stacy said. “Honestly, at that point, I just wanted her to play. I never even thought that playing in college was going to be an option, just because she was a couple of years away from going to college. ”
If anyone knows what it takes to play college golf, it’s Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, whose MSU program is a powerhouse, making its 22nd Division I NCAA regional appearance this coming week as the No. 5 seed in the Stillwater, Oklahoma Regional.
Meanwhile, Olivia, a freshman, will be part of the Grand Valley team at the D-II Championships in Gainsville, Georgia – the Lakers are also a perennial power at their level – having qualified with a top-four finish at last week’s East Regional in Kansas City, Missouri.
Stacy was there for that, following Olivia along.
“I just can’t even tell you how much fun it is to watch your own child play the game that you love,” Stacy said. “And then watching her team make it, it was really special to be there with them.”
“It’s definitely nice having her there, especially now that I like the advice,” Olivia said. “She’ll take notes on my rounds, what I did well and what I did badly. So from that aspect, it’s definitely nice. ”
Growing up around MSU’s golf program made Olivia want to be a student-athlete – just not in golf. Volleyball was her sport until sometime around a family trip to California to watch MSU golfer Valery Platta in the 2018 US Girls’ Junior Championship.
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Stacy remembers Olivia, out of the blue during a conversation at dinner, saying, “I’m going to play golf now.”
“And Jim and I just kind of looked at each other and we’re like, ‘OK, great.’ And then she says, ‘Well, I’m going to play in college.’ In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Honey, I’ve already given full-ride Scholarships out to players your age.’ “
Olivia remembers getting back from that trip and attending a volleyball camp with her Haslett High School team and thinking, “Man, I don’t really want to be in this gym anymore. I’d rather be on the golf course. ”
She knew she had some natural talent and certainly the resources and coaching knowhow at her disposal. And she knew, at 15 years old, she had a lot of work to do.
She also had a mom that didn’t want to ruin her newfound interest in the game.
“It totally changed (our relationship),” Stacy said. “I knew from my experience growing up with my dad being my teacher, it’s one to tread lightly. I didn’t want to turn her off in any way, shape or form. I didn’t want to do anything that was going to make her not like it. I was smart enough to realize we needed to find her a teacher. And so Alex Lorencz at Michigan State was her first teacher. I said, ‘Alex, this is what she said she wants to do. Here you go. ‘
“I think for her it was good to have someone else besides her mom and dad teaching her and giving her advice and confirming what Jim and I were saying to her.”
Stacy went from recruiting at tournaments to also registering her daughter to play in them – and realizing that there were events that Olivia didn’t have the Qualifications to enter.
A pivotal moment in Olivia’s development as a golfer came during during the Pandemic, when in the fall off 2020, with MSU golf not playing and Stacy’s players back at their respective homes, she and Olivia spent a couple months together living near Tampa, Florida, allowing Olivia to focus on her game every day.
“I’d have to say to her a lot, ‘Olivia, this is exactly what I would say to a player on my team,'” Stacy said. “I think sometimes she takes it as I’m being critical, which I am. But I just want to remind her that, ‘Honey, I’ve done a good job with my job. Trust me. ‘
“It’s definitely brought us closer, the understanding of, we’re both still trying to compete. I mean, she’s beating me on a regular basis, which is awesome, because I know she has to do that to continue to become a better player. ”
This summer, they’re planning to play in three of the same tournaments – including the Michigan Open and the Golf Association of Michigan’s Women’s Championship, which is this August at the Lansing Country Club.
And this week, they’ll be following each other from far.
“I love looking at (their) scores,” Olivia said.
They’ll probably play another round together not long after.
“Before (2018), when our whole family would go to the golf course, I was just like,‘ Ick, ’Olivia said. I was always in a bad mood. I never wanted to be there. Now I’m like, ‘Oh, let’s go play nine at night.’ And we have competitions and it’s fun. ”
Contact Graham Couch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.