Growing up with a softball bat in her hands, young Elyssa Esposito never envisioned trading in her Louisville Slugger for a 9-iron. But her grandfather, Lee Goodman, a golfer in his own right, must have envisioned a potential star on the course.
“He was always like, ‘Elyssa, you put down that softball bat and I’ll teach you how to swing a golf club,’” Esposito said. “I was just kind of like, ‘Yeah. OK.’”
Golf, she explained, wasn’t the kind of sport that appealed to her younger self. So what was her initial reaction to the sport?
“That’s for old people,” she said with a laugh. “But I love golf now and I’m thankful for it.”
She eventually allowed Grandpa Goodman to drag her to his favorite golf course in Girard, Kan., where he taught her, as he promised, how to swing a club.
Now, that move is paying off.
After a shaky start to her high school career, Esposito made the trip to the state tournament at the end of her sophomore year to watch teammate Brenna Crawford play in the tournament. Watching Crawford, she said, inspired her to improve and reach the state tournament during her career. So she went to work, even spending numerous summer days in 100-degree heat with Seneca boys coach Judd Eidson, to refine her game.
By the next season she’d shaved 40 strokes off her game and made it to sectionals during her junior season. In 2012, she made it to state.
Now she’s going to college.
After catching the eye of Ottawa University, Esposito applied for and received a ¾ tuition provo scholarship to play for coach Wendell Smith and the Lady Braves next season. Smith says she should immediately compete for a spot at the No. 4 or No. 5 slot in their lineup.
“Elyssa is going to be a great fit with our golf team,” Smith, who is in his seventh year coaching at Ottawa, said. “Obviously, number one she’s a scholar athlete — very good grades and the type of person that’s just automatically a good fit with the girls we have now. We’ve talked about coming in she’ll probably compete for the five or four spot. We try to make it a little competitive to get into that top-five, so we’ll let her compete and see where it goes.”
Esposito, the daughter of Frank and Jodi Esposito, was a four-year letterman under Lady Indians’ coach Will King. During her time with the Lady Indians, Esposito earned all-district honors twice during her junior and senior seasons, and pulled five top-10 finishes — including sixth place at districts this season.
Page 2 of 2 - “She’s always had great work ethic,” King said. “She’s been a letterman all four years in high school and saw great improvements every year because she had the right mindset to get better. She worked hard at it every day and made great improvements. She represented us well. She’s a high-character, super good young lady.
“She’ll keep getting better in college — with better coaching as well,” he deadpanned.