By Nathaniel Clark, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 25, 2014
Junior Lauren Grogan could have struggled at any point this year, and no one would have blamed her.
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This year featured the arrival of current Michigan coach Jan Dowling and the ensuing transition. While a new coaching staff brings with it many changes, Grogan took it all in stride. As an upperclassman, she was instrumental in helping her coach transition into the program.
Grogan then demonstrated her leadership skills when Dowling assigned her to be the “big sister,” to a promising freshman named Grace Choi. Grogan showed Choi the ropes and has helped her through the struggles of freshman year at Michigan. Much like Grogan, Choi has appeared near the top of the leaderboard multiple times in her first season.
“The first semester really teaches you the need to be organized and manage your time effectively,” Grogan said. “I’m really grateful that my teammates helped me get on the right path and that now I’ve been able to help Grace do the same.”
But her path to get here didn’t suggest so.
Grogan was born and raised in Columbus, where she graduated from Bishop Watterson High School in 2011. Many of her golf tournaments and camps growing up took place on the Ohio State campus.
Her golfing career also began later than most. Grogan has been playing golf since she was young, but said she didn’t start competitive golf until her freshman year of high school. However, she made an impact right away. Grogan won numerous awards, including All-State honors in Ohio, led her school to top-10 finishes in state tournaments every year, and was team captain her last three years, all while being in the National Honor Society.
She also had dreams of being a basketball player. She grew up idolizing LeBron James, played on her high school team and attended camps all four years of high school. But junior year, she left the team to focus on golf, a tough decision for her.
That same year, Grogan attended golf combines in Las Vegas. There, she was noticed by colleges, kicking off the recruiting process. While her process started later than most eventual collegiate golfers, many schools wanted her and her golf prospects appeared golden.
Yet she still had dreams of playing basketball. She attended summer basketball camp, thinking about rejoining her high school team. But one of Grogan’s teammates blew out her knee while running down the court, and that got Grogan thinking about her future.
“I didn’t want that to happen to me and waste my promising golf potential because of an injury.”
So Grogan chose golf and it came time to pick a school. Despite her roots in Columbus, she was never going to be a Buckeye.
“It was too close to home,” Grogan said. “My parents and I both agreed that I needed to go far enough away where I could learn some responsibility.”
The choices came down to Penn State and Michigan. While a former high school teammate of hers played at Penn State, Grogan wanted to be somewhat close to home.
Choosing Michigan quickly proved to be right. In just her third-ever collegiate golf tournament, the Challenge at Onion Creek, Grogan placed 10th out of 75 golfers with her career-best total score of 221, which included a career-low 71 in the second round. In the spring, she finished 14th out of 72 at the Big Ten Championships, which helped lead the Wolverines to a fourth-place finish and earned her the program’s Women’s Golf Progress Award.
“The Onion Creek tournament really gave me the confidence to say, ‘Hey, I can do this!’ ” Grogan said. “It taught me that sometimes you just have to be an athlete and not get too technical.”
Grogan’s sophomore year yielded even better results. Her academic success earned her Academic-All Big Ten and U-M Athletic Academic Achievement honors. On the golf course, she was one of just two Michigan golfers to start in all 10 tournaments during the fall and spring seasons. Despite her youth, she was the Wolverines’ lowest scorer four times, which included a fifth-place overall finish at the Wolverine Invitational. She dropped her single-round average to 76.87 strokes per round from 78.73 strokes a year earlier, which included a score of 71 at the Edwin Watts Palmetto Intercollegiate.
But unlike many collegiate athletes, Lauren is not all business. She and her father, whom she describes as her best friend, developed a secret handshake ritual that they used to perform before each tournament. They can be serious when they need to be, but they know how to have fun and make jokes.
Grogan even likes to turn the jokes on herself sometimes. She will often play on the fact that many in Columbus see her as a traitor for attending “That School Up North.”
But just like with the coaching changes this year, Grogan takes it all in stride.