SI Vault
Bruce Newman
October 29, 1990
Teenager Vicki Goetze has risen to the top in women's amateur golf
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October 29, 1990

Score One For Junior Achievement

Teenager Vicki Goetze has risen to the top in women's amateur golf

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"If I don't wear my Walkman I talk to too many people and never get anything done," Goetze says. "I can practice a lot longer if I listen to music. I just like to tune out."

The person she stays tuned in to more than anyone else is her father, Gregg, the architect of her short game and the person who taught her always to be competitive. "He works on her head a lot," Shannon says. "But she's got a strong mind of her own. That's obvious because she plays just as well when her father's not caddying for her as when he is."

It may be damning Gregg Goetze with faint praise to say that he is not of the tennis-father persuasion, but that is not to say he hasn't taken a strong hand in making his daughter a champion. By his own account, he has tried to make sure that anything she hears in competition will pale in comparison to what she heard from him while she was growing up.

"There are times I say things I possibly shouldn't," Gregg says. "But our family has a strong enough relationship that I think we can handle it."

Vicki's earliest golf was played on family outings. Her brother, Nicky, older by two years, was expected to be the family prodigy, but even as a toddler she showed signs that she knew what she was doing. "Nicky showed a greater interest and an ability to concentrate on the game," Gregg says. "Vicki just went along. Sometimes she'd skip a hole if she didn't feel like playing. But as she got older her interest level began to catch up with her skills."

Eventually the competition within the family got so cutthroat that Vicki's mother, Irene, gave up golf entirely. "When your seven-year-old beats you, it's time to quit," Irene Goetze says diplomatically.

"It was rough," Vicki says, recalling the serious competitive training that her father engineered between Vicki and her brother. "Mom was always in the middle, and she never said too much.... There were a lot of mind games. It could get pretty vicious. I grew up in a house where the attitude was, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. There were wasn't meant to be, but it got a little sticky. Now I can say pretty much whatever I want and he pretty much accepts it. It didn't used to be that way, but we've worked on it. I think my dad just wanted me to know that everything in life is not going to be a Cakewalk."

It wasn't that her father didn't want to be helpful. He started Vicki playing golf when she was three, and entered her at age five in the Little People's tournament in Quincy, Ill., a national age-group event. She won it. In 1981 he moved the family from Mishicot, Wis., to Georgia, so Vicki and Nicky could play as much golf as they wanted. "I realized when the kids were starting to get good at golf that I had to give them a chance to get out," says Gregg. " Wisconsin is a nice place to raise kids, and the people are neat, but golf-wise, it's death."

Gregg took a job as a school psychologist, and began using cognitive tests on his children that were similar to the tests he administered to students, trying to break down each kid's putting game into its psychological and physical components. "I have two children who are neurologically distinct," he says. "One is adopted and one is not. Yet they're both very good golfers." Nicky, who was adopted two years before Vicki was born, is now on the golf team at Clemson.

Vicki hasn't decided yet what college she will attend, but Furman, Georgia and Arizona arc high on her list. As for the decision on turning pro, that will have to wait. If and when she docs join the LPGA tour, it may take her a while to learn all the names and faces. "I've never liked watching golf," she concedes. "It seems like it takes so long for one person to hit a shot, then walk up the fairway and hit it again. It's a lot different when you play because there's so much to think about." Goetze may simply have an aversion to anything that isn't short, which is why she may go a long way.

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