Having a college coach see you birdie your first hole can go a long way toward assuring that that you are going to be recruited to play at the next level.
That is what happened to former Utica High golfer Julia Montgomery when Oakland University golf coach Russ Cunningham was looking on at a U.S. girls qualifier event, and while it may not have been the only contributing factor, she now finds herself part of the Golden Grizzles golf squad.
Montgomery is in her freshman season with Oakland, and so far, so good. At press time, the Golden Grizzlies have played in two tournaments, and in each of them, Montgomery shot the lowest score on the team and had stroke average of 77.8.
Montgomery credits playing in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and help from her swing coach, who happens to be her dad, James Montgomery, for preparing her to play at the college level.
And while it may have been difficult to know what life as a collegiate golfer would be like before she got there, Montgomery has been enjoying her freshman season at Oakland.
“It’s been a lot of fun, so far,” she said. “It’s been fun not practicing alone. Coach Cunningham has us doing a lot of drills that are making practice (a) lot more interesting. Traveling was also a ton of fun. Being in the hotel with all the girls, it was like a big sleepover.”
Being the team’s low scorer in the first two tournaments of the season is a good way to make an early impression on a coach, and Cunningham has been pleased with what he has seen from his freshman golfer.
“Julia’s made an immediate impact,” he said. “Not only with having the lowest stroke average right now on the team, but her work ethic. You couldn’t ask for more. She practices on her days off; she has some high aspirations with her golf game. It’s nice to see that. I think it’ll help make everybody better. She’s a high achiever, academically and athletically, and that’s a nice combination to have.”
Aside from her individual goals of leaving Oakland with a degree in health sciences and as a better golfer, Montgomery, who said she didn’t take up golf until her freshman year in high school, also expressed enthusiasm about her Golden Grizzlies team as the program moves forward.
“Our team has already improved a ton,” she said. “All the girls are improving a lot. Our team is continuing to get a lot better, and it will be fun to see where we can go.”
For as good a start as she may be off to, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t capable of achieving even more in the future, and Cunningham expressed optimism about Montgomery’s further potential for growth as she moves forward in her career at Oakland.
“I think she’s got unlimited potential to set a very high standard here at Oakland,” he said. “Help the team to, hopefully, some conference championships and tournament wins, and a very competitive team the next four years.”
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of taking up golf as her sport of choice is that it is a game that she can play long after her days as an NCAA player are over. And while Montgomery plans to do just that, for now her primary concern may be to make the most of her opportunities at Oakland and create some memories she can take with her for years to come.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I have right now,” she said. “I know that’s something I get to keep with me forever.”