By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
What was Elyssa Esposito’s reaction when her grandfather Lee Goodman introduced her to golf about five years ago?
“That’s for old people,” she said. “But I love golf now, and I’m so thankful for it and for him.”
Esposito developed into a four-year player at Seneca High School, and on Thursday afternoon she signed a letter-of-intent to continue her golf career at Ottawa University.
“She will come in right away and have a chance to compete,” Ottawa coach Wendell Smith said. “Based on her scores right now, she can come in and compete for the 4 or 5 spot on our team. We have six girls right now, next year with Elyssa is seven, and we have two more girls in the works. If we can get 8-10 players, that gives us a little more flexibility and it also creates some competition for the top 5. ... Her scores in high school have improved each year, and we’re looking for the continued improvement.”
Esposito’s scores improved drastically after her sophomore year, thanks partly to motivation from former teammate Brynna Crawford.
“My freshman year was my first year of golf,” Esposito said. “I was scoring pretty high numbers, and in my sophomore year it was about the same thing.
“One of my teammates (Crawford) went to state (in 2010), and I got to go watch her. I was like ‘hey, I can go to state.’ ... My parents (Frank and Jodi Esposito) were like good luck ... they weren’t really confident about it. So I set it as a goal that I want to go to state, and the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I shaved 40 strokes off of my game.
“My scores were so high, it wasn’t tough (to improve). But I spent all summer with the boys golf coach, Judd Eidson. He helped me a lot. We were there pretty much every day, and it was the summer we had 110-degree weather. But he still went out there with me.
“My junior year I got my first all-district award, which was awesome. We went to sectionals, and I had a rough day and I didn’t (qualify) for state. And then the next year, I got another all-district award. I went to sectionals and had a terrible tournament, but somehow I pulled it together and I went on to state this year.”
Esposito posted five top-10 finishes her senior year, including a sixth-lace finish at district. She placed 55th in the state tournament with 99-104—203.
“She’s always had a great work ethic,” Seneca coach Will King said. “She’s been a letterman for all four years and saw great improvements every year because she had the right mindset to get better. Golf is such a hard game, and she worked hard at it every day.”
Ottawa is having a strong year in women’s golf. Last fall the Braves finished in the top six in all four tournaments they entered, including a second place in the Baker Invitational and third in the Ottawa Invitational.
In the only start this spring, the Braves took third in the South Central Kansas Invitational in Winfield. Amy Weilert, a sophomore from Chanute, shot a school-record 76 in the final round, and the Braves’ 351 team total in the final round also was a school record.
Sara Housman, a sophomore from Miami, Okla., also plays for the Braves.