St. Kate’s golfer makes the best of challenging first year

Jaycee Rhodes
St. Catherine’s Athletics

Her first year in college hasn’t been what she had envisioned, especially not expecting a pandemic to be part of it. But St. Catherine first-year golfer Jaycee Rhodes has made the best of it. 

“I’m pretty much trying to keep my mind focused on what I can do and what I can’t,” said the St. Paul native last week, a few days before competing in this past weekend’s MIAC Golf Championship in Hastings. Rhodes finished tied for fourth as St. Kate’s took a six-shot lead on the first day and won the three-day tourney with the second-lowest 54-hole total in MIAC history.

It was the school’s second-ever league championship and automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III golf championships.

Rhodes spoke to the MSR last week after the MIAC announced her its women’s golf athlete of the week after she led St. Kate’s to its third-straight tournament win at the Carleton/St. Olaf Spring Invitational. The freshman golfer carded a career-low 155, and her individual first-place finish is the school’s second-ever such victory and first since April 2014.

“Jaycee has been a delight to have on our team this year,” said Wildcats Coach Mary Giorgi of Rhodes, an Eastview High School grad. “Her energetic personality and overall work ethic is something special.”

Because of Minnesota’s unpredictable weather, the regular school golf season affected by the pandemic, and school health protocols, Rhodes and her teammates often weren’t allowed outside to practice. No problem, however, for the young lady from St. Paul: “I have a putting mat in my dorm room that my dad got me that I will practice with every night before I go to bed,” she admitted.

Rhodes’ first collegiate year’s success also included being named to the Dean’s List in February, something that totally caught her by surprise. “I got an email [saying] you’re on the Dean’s List. I personally didn’t even understand how awesome that was, especially with COVID and everything like that.

“I called my dad and he was freaking out, calling everybody,” she recalled. “Then my coach calls, and everyone and everybody was just overjoyed about it. It was so amazing because sometimes [school] wasn’t my best friend.”

Among the college classes she has taken are “a lot of women-based classes…learning more about what women have done in history and things like that,” said Rhodes, “and a couple of religion classes.”

“I’ve definitely learned a lot this year, and I’ve definitely grown with my study skills,” she added proudly. Rhodes also applied for and was accepted as a PGA intern this summer.

“I have been playing with the Junior PGA since I was probably six years old,” she pointed out. “Since I was so young, I am definitely grateful for my dad to put me in all those tournaments, because I learned so many things from playing, learning different roles, learning how to become a confident player, learning wins.

“I’m going to be running lots of tournaments on the course this summer, starting around the first or second week of June,” said Rhodes of her summer work. “Some of the tournaments [will be] all around the Twin Cities. It should be very exciting, and hopefully the weather will be decent enough all summer long.”

Rhodes said she has learned from her teammates “and got to know the school, got to know the people that I live around [on campus]” in her first season in college. But just like high school, she still doesn’t see many golfers who look like her—Rhodes is St. Kate’s only Black golfer this season. “It’s just me.”

The young lady last weekend was one of four St. Catherine’s golfers named to the 12-person All-MIAC Championship team, and she will be named All-American later this month.

“I know she will have a great career with us and a bright future in the game of golf,” predicted Giorgi on Rhodes. “She is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.”

“It’s been a great college experience,” said Rhodes.