Persistence Drives de Groot
Sophomore Emma de Groot already has four career collegiate titles.

By Jeremy Acree, special to


To understand how dedicated Emma de Groot is to golf, you may just need to look at where she came from. The UTC sophomore was born in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, Australia, where she woke up to the sounds of the waves and routinely took a morning “paddle” out into the nearby Pacific Ocean.


In Australia she played soccer as well as golf, but there was no future for her in either sport in her native country.


“I knew I wanted to get a degree when I finish high school,” de Groot said. “And in when you’re in Australia there’s not really much opportunity to go to school and play in school.”


So the choice was made to come across the globe, to a place she had hardly heard of, much less been.


In Chattanooga Colette Murray was getting her first opportunity as a head golf coach. She graduated from Jacksonville State in 2004 where she had taken the same path as de Groot. Murray, a native of Dumfries, Scotland, had blindly chosen Jacksonville State as her American golf home and had stayed there a year after graduation to work as an assistant coach. She was hired by UTC in 2006 to restart a program that had been dormant for 20 years. But Murray didn’t want to start the program until she had a year to establish a strong base.


“Recruiting is the key,” Murray said. “I went to the AD [Steve Sloan] and said if I’m going do this I want to do it right. I don’t want a lackadaisical effort.”


The patience has paid off, and just two years into the program, UTC is ranked in the top 50 in the nation.


“I have 2.5 scholarships to work with, which is not going to get you anywhere,” Murray said. “Every team in the top 100 has six scholarships, so I was always going to be behind the eight ball.”


Murray understood what it took to get an international player into a program, though. So she used all of her resources.


“When you’re an international and you want to play golf, you don’t know a lot about over here [in America],” Murray said. “If I had visited Jacksonville State I probably wouldn’t have gone there, but it is easier to recruit international players because they are open to more places.”


De Groot didn’t know exactly where she was going except that it was far from home and she would be playing a lot of golf.


“When I’m home I go to sleep with the sounds of the waves, and here you go to sleep to sirens,” de Groot said. “I live right on the beach [in Australia]. Here I have seen the beach four times in two years. That’s been a big thing to adjust to.”


What has never changed for de Groot is golf – and the drive to get better.


“Persistent,” is how she described herself. “Someone who’s not going to settle for anything less than my best. I won’t leave the weight room until I feel like I’ve had a workout. I’m kind of a perfectionist. I’m not going to be happy until it’s exactly perfect.”


The start to her college career was about as close to perfect as could have been expected. She won twice and finished in the top-10 in her first nine tournaments as a freshman. She earned a bid to the NCAA East Regional Tournament where she ended up two shots short of an appearance at the national tournament. Then to start out her sophomore year she won her first event of the fall in 2008.


That wasn’t enough for de Groot.


“When I made it to regionals last year and I missed out on nationals it was a wake up call,” de Groot said. “I said if I’m going to do this I’m going to do it right and not give myself any excuses for not making it to where I want to be.


“I don’t want to have that feeling again of being so close and having it slip away. So when I went home I did everything I could to get myself fit to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”


That attitude is what stood out for Murray when she brought in the Australian. It wasn’t the results that surprised her, but the way she worked.


The team is void of captains, but de Groot has undoubtedly emerged as a team leader.


“You couldn’t have asked for a better player,” Murray said. “I knew she was gonna come in and have a huge impact and a huge influence on the team. It’s easier to form that role when you can lead by example. Nobody can really compete with that. Just doing that lets everybody see ‘I’m number 1.’”


This year the challenge has been tougher competition. Playing teams that are consistently in the Top 25 nationally has added pressure and Murray admitted that intimidation has been a factor.


“I know we can beat these teams but it needs to start feeding into them that we do belong here; we just need to go out and play,” Murray said.


The NCAA Tournament is a little more than a month away and de Groot has her sights set high.


“Golf wise I don’t think I’ve accomplished that much,” she said. “I want to win nationals as a team and I want to win nationals by myself.”


For a program that started just two years ago, the progress has surpassed any reasonable expectations. But for de Groot, it is just a beginning. She didn’t leave her beachfront paradise to come to Chattanooga and not make it. And she wants to stay in America because this is where the best golf in the world is played.


“In ten years I’d be one of the best players in the world, that’s where I wanna be,” she said. “Professionally I know I can. I can see myself being one of the best players in the world.”

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