Parks & Recreation: UW Senior Always Good For A Laugh
May 9, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Some believe that golf is a sport that takes the focus of a Buckingham Palace guard and the steely nerves of a surgeon to be successful. Others, like Husky senior Sadena Parks, prefer to break the mold. Parks plays the game with a carefree spirit and bravado and is proving that her method can be just as successful.
While other golfers are stoically approaching the first tee, without a smile on their face and so tuned in to the task at hand that they could hardly be disturbed if a tree fell in front of them, Parks can be found off to the side dancing, singing or laughing with teammates and coaches.
Sure, when it's time to be serious and step up and hit the ball, Parks can rein it in and focus. But for Parks, golf is what it is: a game.
She exemplifies the purity and joy that one can have playing the sport and it often spills over to those around her. Count Husky Coach Mary Lou Mulflur as one who appreciates the attitude that Parks brings to the table.
"She is the one that keeps the mood light and keeps everyone loose," said Mulflur on Tuesday from State College, Pa. where the Huskies start NCAA East Region action on Thursday. "Today, they were playing a chipping game and she was hooting and hollering. It is just nice to have that person that can take the tension out of the group, so to speak."
The Huskies are the No. 10 seed in the East Region being played at the 6,253-yard, par-72 Blue Course of Penn State Golf Club. Washington will tee it up at 7:30 a.m. ET tomorrow.
Before play even starts, the Huskies are saddled with an uphill climb. With only the top eight teams out of 24 competing in the region advancing, the Huskies will need to pass two higher rated teams in order to make it to the NCAA Championship in Nashville, Tennessee.
This is where the strong-willed Parks steps in. She has the perspective of a senior, knowing that her playing career could come to an end on Saturday. But she has the confidence in herself and her teammates to know that they will be ready when it comes time to tee it up.
"We do recognize it," Parks said of the fate of being seeded outside the comfort zone of the top eight. "We do know where we stand, but we know that it is crunch time and we are just taking it one tournament at a time, one day at a time, hole by hole, shot by shot. We are going to try to play our best here and I am confident that we will make it.
"There is no doubt that we are strong and that we will try to do everything in our power to get to NCAA's," she continued. "We are not going to accept not making the NCAA's."
Parks carries that same confidence onto the course day in and day out. The signature of her game is power off the tee - where she routinely drives the ball 275 yards or longer - and creativity on the course. Her imagination allows her to try shots that would scare away the typical golfer. More often than not, her creativity pays dividends.
Parks can trace her golf roots back to her pre-teens when she first started to realize how special her game could be. Originally drawn to track and basketball, Parks started focusing more and more on golf when she was around 11 years old and it dawned on her that the sport required much less running.
"I would go hit golf balls with my dad, just to have fun, and I told my dad that I would like to play golf rather than run all day," Parks remembered of her days growing up in Portland, Ore. and Puyallup, Wash. "That is kind of how I started playing; I was just so fed up with running. I started playing competitive golf and started getting into it."
Soon she started flourishing with a club in her hand. It was her father that first took notice of her abilities.
"I just know that when I would hit balls with my dad, he would be amazed how quickly I picked up things and I was really excited to play. It just came to me that this is kind of fun; I worked hard and was really motivated," she said.
All the hard work and training has paid dividends for Parks. She plans on pursuing a pro golf career on the LPGA Tour after she graduates this June with a degree in American Ethnic Studies. She will have to work on her short irons and short game, but there is no denying that Parks has the potential to succeed at the next level.
"She certainly has the length and great imagination to create shots that most people can't, but the bottom line is at the end of the day you have to have your scoring clubs. I think if she makes that commitment to become a really great player then the sky is the limit for her," said Mulflur.
For now, the focus for Parks is on ending her college career on a high note, and that means a trip to the NCAA championship. Unlike the LPGA Tour, college golf is dependent on more than oneself. Parks cannot do it alone, and she has a supporting cast that has potential to be great this year and beyond.
Joining the veteran Parks - who ranks 10th all-time in UW history with 117 rounds played - in the lineup are four underclassemen. Sophomore Kelli Bowers is the oldest, most college-tested of the group, but a trio of freshmen - SooBin Kim, Jennifer Yang and Cyd Okino - all have big-time tournament experience. Okino has played in the Women's U.S. Open, Kim was second in the 2009 B.C. Women's Amateur Championship and Yang won the 2011 and 2010 B.C. Junior Girls Championship.
No matter what happens this week and beyond, Parks is confident that the Huskies' future will be in good hands.
"I see a lot of potential," Parks said of her younger teammates. "I see a lot of maturity out of them, more than I did in myself as a freshman. I know they have the right mindset; they are so focused on golf. They want to do well and are putting the extra time into practice and into school; they seem like their heads are on straight.
"They have already shown how well they can play as freshmen, and I am really excited to see them progress and grow as they become seniors."
Parks also said that she wishes that she could have had the same focus as the current freshmen when she was their age. She said that often her mind drifted back then and that she lost focus of the big picture. Not only did she have the pressures of being on her own away from home for the first time, but she stepped onto the team as the first African-American golfer in program history. Although she says she did not feel the pressure of being a pioneer, she certainly is a role model and inspiration to all young, aspiring golfers in the community.
"I see that as motivation to work harder," Parks said. "I don't let that stuff get to me that much because you never know where it could take you. It motivates me more to do better and to show that I still have a spot here. I want to show that anything is possible with hard work. It is not just talent; it is mostly hard work that you put into it."
When Parks' career draws to a close, she will be remembered for a lot of things during her time at Washington. Pioneer. Team comedienne. But first and foremost, golfer. She just did it all marching to the beat of her own drum. And, that is something Mulflur and her teammates will always appreciate.
"The group really responds to (her)," said Mulflur. "They really love having her around. With her activity you never really know what she is going to next. Whether she plays good or bad she always is in a mood that is not dictated by how she plays. It is nice to have that person who will have that personality all the time."
"She will not be replaced in a lot of ways," Mulflur added about the inevitable end of her career. "Obviously her golf and her talent, but she is kind of the pulse of our team. She's the one that always keeps it light and keeps everybody in a good mood. She's out there dancing and making people laugh.
"Nobody's going to replace that, so she will be sorely missed for sure."