Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Michigan State golfer Allyson Geer Park is ahead of the course

September 13, 2018
<p>Communication junior Allyson Geer Park practices on Sept. 11, 2018 at the Lasch Family Golf Center in East Lansing. Geer earned the second-lowest single season scoring average in school history at 71.61 her sophomore year and recently received a sponsor exemption to play in the Meijer LPGA classic for the second year in a row over the summer.</p>

Communication junior Allyson Geer Park practices on Sept. 11, 2018 at the Lasch Family Golf Center in East Lansing. Geer earned the second-lowest single season scoring average in school history at 71.61 her sophomore year and recently received a sponsor exemption to play in the Meijer LPGA classic for the second year in a row over the summer.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Junior Spartan golfer Allyson “Ally” Geer Park has never done anything at anybody else’s pace.

She was walking before her peers, beating the boys at her local club when she was 10-years-old and even graduated high school a semester early. Her talent was so prodigious that MSU women’s golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll offered her a scholarship the summer after she finished eighth grade. 

“We met at Snyder-Phillips, had dinner together, and we had decided at that time that we wanted to offer her a scholarship,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “We not only loved her as a golfer, but also just loved her as a person. Everything in how we recruit — character, grades and talent — she fit the bill in every single way possible. We offered her the scholarship over dessert, and she committed.” 

It was no surprise to anybody near Ally when she decided to get married at 19. Ally and her husband, former Eastern Michigan golfer Nick Park, tied the knot on Aug. 4, one day before she flew to Kingston Springs, Tennessee for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.

“The wedding was amazing, and I left the next morning,” Ally said. “It was incredible, I wouldn’t have changed that opportunity, I wouldn’t have changed the way things happened in that order for anything. I don’t really do anything in order anyways, so it just kind of fit into my story.” 

Car Seats and Duck Food

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Ally’s parents did not play college golf. Her father, Brad Geer, played all the time at Oak Pointe Country Club near their home in Brighton, but when he and mother Andrea Geer began having children, he realized that six hours at a time on a golf course was too long to spend away from his family.

So rather than abandon the game he loved to play, he decided to introduce his daughters to it. 

“We would bring duck food and feed the ducks in between holes,” Andrea Geer said. “When they were young, we would bring a carseat on the golf cart, and strap it in with my husband’s belt, and take them out there before they could walk. We just made it something fun to do as a family.” 

The eldest Geer child, Jess, who recently graduated from MSU with a degree in criminal justice, was a good little player. Kassidy, the youngest, knew her way around a course.

But Ally, the middle daughter, was special.

“I told my dad, one day I was gonna hit it farther than him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’” Ally said. “I asked him if I could start taking lessons, and doing it more frequently, and he started seeing that I enjoyed the competition of it, and then it just kind of went from there.” 

The Geer family is aware of the stigma surrounding homeschooled athletes who become child prodigies: The stereotype that they were forced to play the game and their parents were planning their green jacket fittings while they were in the womb. 

Not Brad and Andrea, the whole family agrees.

“That was nothing that we were focused on. It was family time, and it was something that stuck with her,” Andrea said. “When you see that a child loves a sport, whatever that sport is, you just keep giving them all the opportunities that you can to let them keep competing and playing against the best players.”

Brad and Andrea exposed all three daughters to many different activities, such as ice skating, dancing and soccer. It was only when Ally began beating the boys on the golf course that Brad and Andrea realized she thrived on competition.

“My dad played golf, but it was really just for fun. I grew up in a small town, and golf was just something fun I did with my parents and my two other sisters,” Ally said. “It was always my choice to be out there. I always tell people that golf is what I do, it’s not who I am.”

Ally quickly began making a name for herself on the junior circuit, starting with the Meijer Junior Tour, moving on to the regional Golfweek tour and then eventually becoming a huge force on the national American Junior Golf Association tour. It was during this time that she received coaching from Oak Pointe club pro Eric Colchamiro, who caddied for her at an AJGA event in Illinois when she was 13.

“We were on one particular hole, she hit the ball out to the right, she was in the tree line, and it was really interesting to watch her thought process of what kind of shot she was gonna try to hit,” Colchamiro said. “She talked through it, and she pulled off an incredible shot. As we were walking down the fairway, I looked at her, and said, ‘Are you really that good?’ And she just smiled and kinda winked at me, and we went forward from there.”

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Whole in One

Nick Park swears he and Ally didn’t even talk for the first few years they knew each other. They saw each other around the course at Oak Pointe, but didn’t start talking until a few years ago.

“She caddied for me in the Michigan Open, I caddied for her at a metro tour event up at Tullymore, and from there, the rest is history, I guess,” Park said. 

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They started dating two years to the day before they jumped the broom, and the devout couple said that their faith was a driving force in their decision to wed.

“I think a lot (of) it ties back to our faith. We trust everything to God, we’re not trying to live life on our timeline, we’re living life on His,” Park said. “At that point, I had graduated from college, and she had two years left, so we were just looking to see what makes sense, and lean on God a lot at that time.”

The decision was a curveball for Brad and Andrea, but Ally’s parents respect her and know she’s going to do what’s best for her, she said.

“I think every decision I’ve ever made I do it with very careful thought,” Ally said. “You always take into consideration what people think, but you can’t define your life by what other people expect you to do.”

Preparing for both the wedding and the U.S. Amateur Championship at the same time was just something Ally felt wholly comfortable with.

“I always knew what I could and couldn’t handle,” she said. “I knew that being married, I was gonna be able to handle it, it was just gonna go along with everything that I wanted to do on and off the golf course.”

She even tried to practice with Park the morning of her wedding, but between her husband’s insistence that she enjoy the day, and her mother’s superstition that they not see each other before the wedding itself, her clubs were “accidentally” locked in Park’s car. 

The tournament began two days after the wedding. Ally shot a 78 on day 1, rebounded with a 67 on day 2, but failed to advance to match play through a 9-woman playoff for the final spot.

Spartan Past, Present, and Future

Mother and daughter toured the country playing tournaments during her preteen and teen years, and Andrea always wanted her daughter to check out other universities besides MSU to see if they would be something of interest. Ally declined.

It was always her dream to attend her mother’s alma mater, and if she had the opportunity to go, she would.

“She would play at (the University of Michigan) once in a while, and she would wear all of her Michigan State clothing,” Andrea said. “I told her she could get away with it while she’s young, but when she got older, it might be a little harder to do that.” 

After Ally’s early commitment, Slobodnik-Stoll thought she would have to wait four whole years to unveil her new star. But Ally, ever the pace-setter, and having finished all her high school requirements through Andrea’s homeschooling, decided to surprise her college coach a semester early.

“We were coming off one of the worst falls of my coaching career. She decided to come a semester early, and then we ended up winning the Big Ten championship two years ago with her. She really was the spark that we needed on that team to get the team going,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “She’s always been mature, and I think that’s because she didn’t go to high school. Kids who are homeschooled end up being around adults more.”

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Coming in the spring instead of waiting until the next fall means Ally will only have three-and-a-half years of college eligibility instead of four. But she has zero regrets. 

“I think it was kind of instilled at a young age that I wasn’t like everyone else, and my life wasn’t gonna look like everyone else’s from the way I was raised, and what I believe, and what I wanted for my life,” she said.

Since coming to MSU, Ally has been as good as advertised. She was named All-Big Ten twice, was a Women’s Congressional Golf Association Honorable Mention All-American last season, when she recorded the second-lowest scoring average in the history of MSU’s women’s golf program. 

She wants to eventually play professionally, and both her childhood and college coach agree she’s capable of it.

“Her game has always been good, and it just progressively gets better,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “And it’s gotta keep getting better if she wants to play on tour and make a living out there. She’s got a second gear in competition mode. When the competition is there, she’s always ready to go.”

Ally’s willingness to work hard will help her as she goes pro, Colchamiro said.

“The most impressive thing about her was, with all the talent, her willingness to learn and work really hard at improving upon any particular thing we talked about,” Colchamiro said. “Whenever she had a concern, we addressed it, and gave her a drill to work on, and she’d be out there working on that drill until she got it right.” 

Before going pro, the little girl who wore green and white while playing in Ann Arbor, wants to bring home more trophies, for the Spartans.

“My goals are to hopefully win my first college event individually. I’ve come up second place a lot, and I know what it’s going to take to win. I’ve gotten close, so I’m hoping to break through,” Ally said. 

She also hopes to win another Big Ten Championship, giving the team a shot at a national title, which she knows they’re capable of this year.

“Some kids have a different mindset when they get out on the golf course, and I think that’s what I’ve always been impressed with Ally, that mindset,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “She always plays for the team, not just for herself.” 

But what about when she does play for herself, against her husband, who is a full head taller?

“Honestly, it’s 50-50,” Ally said. “We play together very often, and he beats me a lot more than I would like to admit. On a good day for both of us, it’s pretty close.” 

“She’s a lot better player than me if I was to play from the men’s yardage and she was to play from the women’s yardage, she would beat me hands down,” Park said. “From (the same yardage), it depends on who’s hot that day.” 

And there’s no fighting in the car afterwards?

“No,” Park said. “Unless she wins.” 

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