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Frosh women’s golfer embraces new experiences

BY TORK MASON | SEPTEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Shelby Phillips doesn’t back down from challenges — she seeks them out.

A native of Gilbert, Ariz., she is accustomed to playing in the high temperatures and dry air of the desert. But she said she’s not intimidated by the much colder and wetter weather of the Midwest.

“I knew I wanted to experience something different,” Phillips said. “I can play in 120-degree heat. It’s a little difficult for me to play in the wind and rain, but I knew I wanted to experience that.”

Phillips is one of three freshmen on Iowa’s women’s golf team. Her father, John Phillips, describes her as a “strong-willed” person who loves to compete, and he said she’s been that way from day one.

She competed against boys in both football and baseball growing up. She picked up golf at the age of 7 and hasn’t looked back since.

When older brother J.W. Phillips was taking golf lessons, she wouldn’t stop “messing around” on the driving range, her father recalled.

“We tried to get her to quit until we noticed she was hitting the ball so well,” John Phillips said.

She started playing competitively shortly thereafter, and it didn’t take her long to blossom into one of the top junior players in the country; she placed 15th at the 2002 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in the 9-and-under division.

Her first coach, Hub Goyen Jr., lauded her passion and athleticism.

“She’s very athletic, and she just fell in love with the game,” he said. “It’s fun to have a student like that. She worked awfully hard when she was young, which is fun for me as a teacher.”

Shelby Phillips garnered a great deal of interest as a prep golfer, and her father said she received 68 emails on the first night college coaches were allowed to contact her. By that time, she had taken unofficial visits to Iowa and Illinois, and she said she had liked the Iowa campus.

Her connections to the state didn’t hurt, either. She was born in Mount Pleasant, and her mother, Mary Phillips, went to high school with Iowa men’s golf coach Mark Hankins.

Both she and her father admitted, however, that Iowa was not where they originally envisioned her playing. But she said she fell in love with the coaches and the campus on her second visit to Iowa City and decided the town was where she wanted to be.

She committed to Iowa during her sophomore year, when the program was still under the leadership of former coach Kelly Crawford. The news of Crawford’s resignation in June hit Phillips hard, she said.

“She [Crawford] was a big part of why I came here,” Phillips said, but her current teammates called and asked her to give it at least a year with whoever the new coach ended up being.

Her father echoed that message, urging her to take things in stride.

“The day that it happened, she came running in to me very upset,” John Phillips said. “I explained to her that it’s no longer junior golf. She’s getting into the business of golf, and things like this happen — all she can do is put her best foot forward.”

She said she hasn’t regretted the decision to remain with the Black and Gold.

“I love my coach, and I love my teammates, so it all worked out,” she said.

“She’s happy to be a Hawkeye,” John Phillips said.

It seems that adjusting to a new coach is just one more challenge she won’t shy away from.

She has even begun “raising the flag” in Arizona, helping to bring more recruits from the state to Iowa City.

Phillips will try to start her Iowa career off on the right foot at the Chip-N-Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 12-13.


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