Father, Open inspire UA sophomore to pursue sport as a career

By Jacinda Sweet

Arizona Daily Wildcat

For many people, golf is a sport enjoyed at the local Golf N' Stuff. But for Heather Graff, pitching and putting is a family affair.

The daughter of a golf pro, Graff began playing golf at a young age, competing in her first tournament when she was 5 years old.

"Being a club professional, my dad was able to cut down clubs for me," said Graff, a sophomore on the UA women's golf team. "I looked up to him, because he was a great golfer."

And for a role model, her father, Brad Graff, fit the bill after all, he may be competing on the Senior PGA Tour someday.

"My dad never practices and he shoots even par every time," Graff said. "I'm going to caddy his first Open, especially since he caddied for me in my first Open."

Over the summer, Graff showed off her skills at the U.S. Open and also qualified for the U.S. Amateur Open.

"Playing in the Open made me realize that golf is what I want to do for the rest of my life," Graff said. "I learned a lot, and maybe next year I'll go a little bit further."

Graff ended the 1995 season with seven top-10 finishes and nine top-20 finishes, which led to her being named an All-America honorable mention by the National Golf Coaches Association.

"I was very excited," said Graff, who recently was named a preseason second-team All-American.

Graff is part of a rich tradition of Wildcat golfers. UA graduate Annika Sorenstam won the 1995 U.S. Open, her first win on the Tour.

"I really felt happy and proud of her for what she's accomplished in golf," Graff said. "I look up to her also, because she's a great golfer."

Sorenstam is one of the many golfers Graff admires, including Davis Love III and close friend Tiger Woods.

"I love how Davis is on the golf course," Graff said. "He looks totally relaxed out there. You can't tell if he's playing good or bad, because he's always the same.

"Tiger has a great outlook on golf, because he models different things about different people. He's not only a terrific golfer, but a good person as well."

Graff said she tries to apply what she learned last summer to her play this season.

Finishing eighth last weekend at the Rolex Fall Preview, Graff is aware she has some things to improve upon. She shot 77-74 for the first two rounds. She improved the final day, shooting a 71.

"I learned more from the first two rounds, and I tried to apply what I learned in the third," Graff said. "I was out there on a mission, and there was nothing that was going to stop me."

Though Graff has been successful much of the time, she said she is not without times of doubt. After the departure of UA coach Kim Haddow, Graff said she was quite upset.

"I really didn't want to be here anymore," Graff said. "It showed in my golf and in my attitude. But finally I talked with my dad, and told him that there was no place I wanted to be but Arizona."

Graff attributes her success thus far to the fact that she is playing smarter than she had in the past.

"I challenge myself out there," Graff said. "I wouldn't say I play it safer, but much smarter."

Thursday through Saturday, the Wildcats will compete in the Dick McGuire Invitational. Although the field is a tough one, Graff said she is confident in herself and her teammates.

"I know we can win it," Graff said. "I think the team is going to do really well this year."

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