A normal season and a normal college year is what St. Catherine sophomore golfer Jaycee Rhodes hopes for. Thus far she is on target.
“I feel like I am a sophomore,” declared Rhodes as the Eastview High School grad from St. Paul briefly reflected back on her first college year that was pandemic-influenced. “I put in all the work last year. I personally feel that I am a well-deserved sophomore.
“At times it was painful to see, but I think there are hidden blessings behind what happened within COVID… I definitely learned I just have to take every day, every second. I need to use that and stay in the moment,” Rhodes said.
Last month St. Catherine made history as the first program to win back-to-back MIAC golf championship titles, and earned the conference’s automatic berth in next spring’s NCAAs. All five Wildcats golfers finished in the top 14; Rhodes finished sixth and posted the second-best 34 pars over three days, just behind the individual winner.
A three-time Minnesota state tournament participant and three-time All-State and all-conference golfer, Rhodes admitted she loves the difference between high school golf and collegiate golf.
“A big thing is, being in college you feel like you truly have a team, a group of people that you’re competing with to get to the next level,” explained Rhodes. “Another thing that I feel is really different between college and high school is respect among players. I feel like I trust players who I’m playing against that what they’re doing is right.
“I think in high school,” she continued, “a lot of times girls were more worried about [their score] than being worried about their actual game and trying to get better. They were more worried about what it looks like to other people than trying to grow as a golfer.”
Rhodes’ major is business administration, and she is also pursuing two minors, sales and leadership.
“This year is going phenomenal,” she said proudly. “It’s kind of nice to have these normal experiences, getting to know people in my classes. Finally getting to see my teachers in person and finally actually being able to raise my hand to ask questions.
“That college experience that I was longing for before COVID has started,” she said. “It’s very nice to be back in the classes and just have that surrounding feeling like a community.”
Although golf is on its annual hiatus until spring, Rhodes says this doesn’t mean she now turns into a regular college student. “We do not have those experiences,” she pointed out of her student-athlete status. “We still have workouts we do twice a week, and we do other workouts outside of that.
“I have a simulator here at school,” noted Rhodes. “I go up there and check out my numbers, check out my swing path and everything that I try to get better within my swing. Right now is the time of year where I can work on technical stuff.”
One more thing Rhodes reaffirmed is that she still remains the MIAC’s only Black golfer. “I have not seen any [Black] girls within my conference, nor within any of the other teams that we play are any in my minority or any minorities. It’s been pretty much the same [since high school]. I’m hoping that change will come sometime.”
Rhodes and her teammates were able to play with fans in attendance, including her number-one fan—her father James Rhodes. “My dad was there every single time supporting me 100%,” she said proudly. “I also get to have some of my friends, other athletes, and people like that come out and support us.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.