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April 23, 2003

Senior transfer leads golf team with mental attitude

From: Purdue Exponent - Apr 23, 2003

By David Heckard
Staff Writer

Senior golfer Heather Suhr lines up the putt on the 18th green. Purdue is close in a match with Tennessee at the Lady Boilermaker Invitational and she knows a bogey on this hole could be devastating for the team's chances.

She squats down, looks at the curvature of the crisp green, stands up and quietly sinks the putt for par.

She receives short applause from the teams that have congregated around the green but her silence doesn't give away her secret. She signs her scorecard, receives congratulations from the team, turns to her dad and signs "73." Suhr is legally deaf but in her mind she's just "hard of hearing."

Suhr, who hears through the use of hearing aids, has never really thought of her disability as an obstacle, but it's something that she takes into consideration.

"One of the reasons I chose golf was because I'm hard of hearing," said Suhr. "It's easy for me to stay focused and block the distractions."

Suhr was introduced to golf by her grandfather, who wanted her to get involved in sports. Since that introduction, she has fallen in love with the game.

"I started playing golf (because of) my grandpa," said Suhr. "I started playing when I was five and I think at about 14 ? my sophomore year in high school ? I started to realize that golf is my sport. It's such an individual sport, and with my hearing, it felt like a better fit for me."

Suhr has also been involved and had success in other sports.

"I've played soccer, basketball and golf all my life," said Suhr. "I've been successful in basketball. In soccer, I quit my sophomore year to concentrate on golf, even though I was the MVP (of the soccer team).

"I guess I'm a natural athlete. Whatever comes to me, I can do it. Sports seem to come really easy to me."

Suhr went on to win the Wisconsin state golf title three times, then began a collegiate golf career at the University of Iowa, where she played three years.

But at Iowa, Suhr wasn't satisfied and longed for more competition.

"I was the No. 1 player at Iowa and I didn't feel I was getting enough competition," said Suhr. "I wanted to go to a better golf team with a better schedule.

"I was actually thinking about (transferring) at Iowa for two years. I don't know why I didn't decide then. I waited until the end of last year's golf season and asked for a release."

She looked for another collegiate golf program and, with the help of a Purdue alumnus, settled on Purdue.

"The ironic part was that I never really considered Purdue," said Suhr. "But a friend of mine back at home suggested Purdue and it turns out that I liked it. Also, I wanted to stay close to home."

Head coach Devon Brouse received a phone call promoting Suhr.

"I got a call from a Purdue graduate in her hometown of Racine," said Brouse. "He said she was a hidden talent and that she was looking for a stronger schedule. I think she wanted to play tougher competition and our schedule is one of the toughest."

Suhr said that since she arrived at Purdue the team has seemed like an extended family.

"I feel that we get together to practice and challenge each other," said Suhr. "I would say there is not a negative response here. Everybody supports each other and is there for each other.

"Here, it's a great coach, great facility. It's been awesome."

One of her greatest achievements this season, she states, has been the change in her mental attitude.

"My mental outlook on golf had been tentative but not always positive," said Suhr. "Ever since I came here, coach has been helping me with my mental attitude with a 'damn the torpedoes'-type attitude. That is being incorporated into my golf ability."

Brouse notes that despite Suhr being on the time for only a year, her quiet leadership has helped the team.

"She's a tremendous leader for us," said Brouse. "She trains hard and is very competitive. She talks with her commitment, not words. Her golf has gotten consistently stronger throughout the year. Other players really respect her and we're happy to have her."

Suhr's determination and commitment is something her parents have instilled in her.

"My parents have always been really supportive," said Suhr. "Regardless of what happens and the barriers I may face, they're always supportive. In golf, they've always said just do the best that you can and they believe in me. They give (me) encouragement in golf and even though I have a hearing disability, I can be successful.

"My parents have been to three golf tournaments (this year); the longest trip was Indiana, which was about six hours from where they live. They'll be going to Iowa, NCAA regionals and, of course, NCAA nationals."

Suhr first played against her old team earlier in the month, something she said seemed strange.

"The first time I saw (Iowa) was two weekends ago at Indiana," said Suhr. "I love my old teammates at Iowa, but it was kind of strange to see the 'Iowa' on their uniforms and I wasn't wearing one. It also felt kind of weird that I'm not relying on them to come together, I'm relying on Purdue to come together. It was weird, but I don't have any regrets. This has been a new start for me and I'm happy where I am."

Suhr's future includes completing school and attempting to accomplish her ultimate goal: professional golf.

"I have one more year of school, but I do want to try to play professionally. I want to try to get on the futures tour, which is just below the LPGA. I want to keep on competing and keep on working to where I want to be and that's LPGA professional golf."

© The Exponent 2003