You are here

A New Course

At 50, Joanne Adams hoped college golf would offer a fresh challenge. It provided much more.

By Joanne Adams as told to Brian Burnsed

Joanne Adams. Wayne State University (Michigan) photo

ROLE: A golfer at Wayne State (Michigan) who will receive her bachelor’s degree in marketing this spring. HER STORY: After a business career and raising two children, the native of England joined the school’s new college golf team. LESSONS LEARNED: No matter the age or experience, it’s never too late to learn something new.

I started playing golf in my mid-30s when my youngest son went to school full time. My first year of hitting golf balls was on a driving range in England. The teaching pro would walk up and down and give you hints. After about a year, he came along and said, “You’re going to have to go on the golf course sometime.” I said, “No, that’s a scary place.”

You’re really putting yourself out there when you go out on a golf course. You’re exposed. When I moved to the U.S. in 2004, I left behind my business, and I had more time. That’s when I started to play a lot more golf and developed more love for it.

I was having dinner with a friend who said that Wayne State was starting up a women’s golf team, and that the head coach had expressed that he wasn’t averse to looking for older people. It would have been a team entirely of freshmen. My kids were older. I was in a position where I was looking for a new challenge, or something different to do. So I called him.

There’s a lot of self-forgiveness and having to work hard. That was one of the things I liked about the opportunity to play college golf. It’s all very well to go out and play recreational golf and to win club championships at your local country club, but tournament golf is a different animal.

Initially, my teammates were a little bit wary of me. By being a team player and showing that I had golf issues and things I needed to work out — as well as asking for advice — I got over those sorts of barriers quickly.

You can share your successes, but you have to share your failures. You have to be able to look teammates in the eye and say, “I just made an 8 on a par 4.” I’m a different age group from the rest of the women, but we’ve been able to talk.

We all quite like to succeed, not only on the golf course but in the classroom as well. We’ll get our books out and get our work done, but when we meet up afterward, we’ve had some good fun. I feel like a 53-year-old millennial. They haven’t gotten me on Snapchat though. I draw the line at Snapchat.

I have my own business selling a golf swing training aid. Doing the accounting classes here, I can now put together a professional-looking budget. It’s quite interesting to see how the different parts of business work and what you have to understand to make a business successful. I’m sounding like a real study geek.

If you want to make something happen, you can. You just have to set what your priorities are. If it’s a weekend, I’m going to play golf or I can work or I can study. I do actually have a social life, but it comes behind the other things I want to do.

I’ve met some really impressive people here who are jumping through hoops to get an education and to take advantage of opportunities. They need to be respected way more than they are.

This experience has made me realize what area that I want to go into next. Wayne State is very diverse, and I’ve shared classrooms and golf courses with a range of different people. I want to defend people who are trying to do the best they can to change their circumstances and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. I’m really upset about how much student debt they have and how demoralizing that is. I want to start working with some of the nonprofits around Detroit and see how I can help.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.