UNI’s Sonja Przybylski trades in softball dreams for success on the golf links


Sonja Przybylski was all set to be the next great softball player in the state of Iowa.

Przybylski was one of the best softball players in the Cedar Valley growing up and had her heart set on playing softball for Cedar Falls High School and then for the University of Northern Iowa.

But a funny thing happened to Przybylski on her way to her dream.

It took a little detour, one which has landed her at UNI, but on the women’s golf team as a walk-on.

Przybylski is now one of the Panthers’ top golfers and this weekend will take aim at the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Golf Championship at Spirit Hollow Golf Course.

Przybylski, a junior, is one of Northern Iowa’s top players, averaging 80.65 strokes per 18 holes. And up until her freshman year at Cedar Falls High School, she hadn’t even picked up a golf club.

“I played a lot of softball when I was younger and I really thought softball was going to be my main focus,” Przybylski said. “My brother [Lee] was a really good golfer. He was the No. 1 golfer at Cedar Falls. So when the coach found out he had a sister, he called me and asked me to come out and give it a shot.

“I grabbed my Mom’s old clubs and my Dad told me the rules and I went out and played the local par-3 course for qualifying and I made the team. The rest just kind of came along.”

“Sonja has had a really nice season. With Sonja, as the season goes longer, she gets better and better,” UNI head coach John Bermel said. “She walked on to the team and she has worked herself up to a nice position. She’s fun to watch. She birdied the first three holes at Lake Rathbun at our last tournament and had an eight-footer for birdie on the fourth hole, but she got nervous and missed it. I like where she’s at right now.”

Przybylski played on a traveling softball team when she was younger. But her father pointed her in a different direction.

Suddenly, she went from trying to hit a ball coming at her at 60 miles-per-hour to one sitting on a tee. At first it didn’t seem like much of a challenge, but Przybylski has grown to love the finer points of golf.

I’ve been really frustrated with my short game, but I’m happy with all the other parts. Hopefully I can put it all together this weekend.
— Sonja Przybylski

“I played on a club team and we traveled a lot. I just thought golf was something to do on the side. I was played softball. That’s what I was going to do in college,” Przybylski said. “The UNI softball coach was my high school coach and we didn’t agree on things. My Dad told me there were a lot more opportunities in golf and that it’s a sport you can play a lot longer. Golf is one of those games that if you put in the time, you can get really good at it.

“I miss the softball team part of it. But in golf you have to own it. You can’t blame a bad shot on someone else.”

For Przybylski, the learning curve was sharp. She was shooting around 50 for nine holes her freshman year in high school. By the time she was a senior she was shooting around par.

“It was one of those crazy things,” Przybylski said. “I didn’t even think I would be good enough to qualify.”

Przybylski found that the college game is a little different than high school. The season starts earlier and once it starts, there is very little time to make adjustments in your game. So the few times she gets to work on her game, she takes advantage of it.

“It goes by really fast. You are playing weekend after weekend after weekend. It seems like we just get back and then we are leaving again to go play,” Przybylski said. “You really don’t get a chance to change anything in your swing. You pretty much come back and get a day or two to regroup and then you’re back out there. You have to learn to play with what you’ve got.”

Przybylski has spent much of the past two weeks working on her short game. That will be crucial at the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Golf Championship, which has been decided by three shots or fewer each of the past three years. Last year, Wichita State edged Indiana State by one stroke.

“My short game is something I have been struggling with. That part always comes around with the summer and fall seasons,” Przybylski said. “I have been hitting the ball good, I just haven’t been scoring. I’ve been really frustrated with my short game, but I’m happy with all the other parts. Hopefully I can put it all together this weekend.”

This article was written by Matt Levins from The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Scott Harrigan
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