England native Stubbs gears dreams toward golf

by Adam Fink

Known for making fast decisions – and changing her mind just as quickly – Minnesota’s women’s golfer Sophie Stubbs made a choice in fall 2002 that might have been rash, but one she hasn’t regretted.

Once hoping for a career as a lawyer, and then as an actress, Stubbs – who played numerous sports in high school, including netball and tennis – decided to focus on golf after a solid fall season in 2002.

That decision was followed by another bombshell.

A native of Telford, England, Stubbs wanted to play in the United States.

“I don’t think my parents believed I was actually leaving until I started packing my bags,” Stubbs said. “I like to take risks.”

Heading into this weekend’s Big Ten Championships in Ohio, Stubbs’ decision to travel thousands of miles from her home to play golf is reaping huge rewards for the Gophers.

A little more than a year ago, Stubbs received three offers after she applied to a recruiting service.

Two of the offers were from small schools in Florida; the other was from Minnesota.

“All I knew about them was they had a good ice hockey team,” said Stubbs, who is on the receiving end of jokes from her teammates about her thick British accent. “I was really naive. I didn’t know the difference between a Division I and Division II school.”

By the time she got on her return flight after visiting last May, Stubbs was sold on joining the Gophers.

Although the freshman joined a program that was already short on players, Stubbs didn’t come to Minnesota just to add to the roster number, although it might have appeared that way originally.

The 19-year-old never finished in the Gophers’ top two during the fall season. She finished third twice, but her stroke average of nearly 83 was higher than she was used to and made her extremely frustrated with her high expectations.

In addition, she found herself a little homesick.

“It never got to the point where I didn’t want to be here,” Stubbs said. “I just wanted to be home.”

Stubbs has drastically improved during the spring season. She has slowly learned not to get down on herself after a bad shot. And she has adjusted to the U.S. lifestyle.

Her scores – while admittedly still high for her own standards – have improved. She finished as the Gophers’ second-best finisher in two of their four events, and has lowered her stroke average to the upper 70s.

“I am surprised she hasn’t broken 80 more often,” Gophers coach Katie Weiss said.

The coaching staff worked with her in hopes of improving her mindset, which is fragile for a young golfer.

Stubbs would let a bad shot affect her, and it would hang over that round. Teammates talked to her about forgetting events in the past and moving forward.

“She is still learning her role,” teammate Sarah Butler said. “This semester, she has looked so much more comfortable. I think she has unlimited potential.”

Stubbs will return to England this summer to gain some national exposure, and hopes to turn pro eventually.

“I am excited, because I feel like I know what I want to do,” Stubbs said.

It just took a while.