SCOTTSDALE – Sydney Seigel had long dreamed of having a home-course advantage at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship.
With Grayhawk Golf Club located only three miles from her home in Scottsdale, the University of Tulsa sophomore snuck in the chance last weekend during the last year of the course’s three-year run of hosting the championship.
“I remember we met in December and she said I want to go to Grayhawk in my backyard,” said Ruth Seigel, Sydney’s mom. “And to see her achieve that with her team, because it is a team sport, is amazing.”
Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University missed the championship cut in a rare event, leaving Sydney as one of the few golfers with ties to Arizona in competition. She entered the tournament with confidence and a clear strategy committed to memory from playing the course during her younger days.
“My mom asked me if I wanted my yardage book from back home … I was like no, I think I can remember it,” Sydney said. “I know everything is super dry out there so (the ball is) going to roll, I’m going to get all my distance back. Everything slopes off the mountain so I’m always looking for the mountain where it is, looking for where the city is.”
Sydney’s goal of returning home to play in the championship was always a desire but not always within reach. She faced struggles in finding her footing to start high school and was unsure of golf as a possibility in college due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With all the setbacks you kind of think oh, I’m never going to get to experience nationals just like everyone else,” Sydney said. “I have watched it all the last few years it’s been here and I’m like oh, I want to be out there playing.”
Although Sydney dealt with self-doubt at times, those around her knew she was bursting with potential. A four-year starter for Pinnacle High School’s varsity team, she helped lead the girls golf team to a state championship in 2019 and a national championship in 2020.
“You could see in spurts the greatness that she was showing and that consistency, and she is doing tremendously well and we are proud of her,” said Charlie Wilde, Sydney’s Pinnacle High coach. “But she’s showed that so I don’t think anyone is highly surprised … we knew it could happen, it was just up to her.”
While Sydney ended Friday’s first round shooting 1-over par, she still stood out as one of the stars thanks to “Sydney’s Posse,” a name Ruth created for the massive gallery that follows her from hole to hole. When playing in the Arizona area, the group usually includes her mom, brother, godfather, other close family members, friends and former teammates.
“Her family has always been a close-knit group; her brother has always been around and stood next to her, so it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Wilde said Friday after the first round. “Sydney’s always been tremendously nice and outgiving her time and everything she possibly could, so of course it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a big group following her today.”
Sydney often doesn’t notice Sydney’s Posse until she looks back from the tee box in awe. During Friday’s round, while most groups had about five to seven people following them, Sydney’s gallery far exceeded the average.
“I wasn’t expecting that many people out today if I’m being honest,” Sydney said Friday. “It was really nice having all of my friends and family come out to support because it just makes my heart warm knowing that they all cared enough to come out and watch golf, which I know is sometimes not the most fun sport to watch, but it was nice.”
One person missing was Sydney’s father, who she lost at a young age. Her godfather, however, stepped in as her caddie during amateur tournaments. His presence is also felt as a fan as he often travels the country to watch her play in tournaments.
Friday was no different.
“He’s just kind of a surrogate godfather,” Ruth said. “(He has said) anytime you need a caddie, I’ll be there. They just kind of have this neat bond about golf and sports.”
Sydney ended her three days of stroke play shooting 10-over par, with her most impressive effort coming Sunday, when she finished even for the round, carding a 72.
Although Tulsa did not qualify for Monday’s fourth and last day of stroke play after finishing its three-day stroke play in second-to-last place out of 30 teams, Sydney lived out her dream of playing on college golf’s biggest stage in her own backyard.
“For her to stay steady today, I know that she would say she has things to work (on), that just shows maturity,” Ruth said Friday. “Whatever happens here is great, she made her dream of coming here (true).”