Golf: Petoskey senior Olivia Pizii signs with Ferris State
Petoskey senior Olivia Pizii (front, center) signs a national letter of intent to play golf at Ferris State University Tuesday at the Petoskey High School athletic office. Joining Pizii are her mother Janice (left), father Tony (right), and swing coach Brian O¿Neill (back), the director of instruction at Boyne Resorts. (Steve Foley/News-Review / April 18, 2012)
It was an instant natural fit.
“She took that club in her hands and she said ‘Like this daddy?’ and she already had the grip,” Tony Pizii said. “I told her to not change anything. Just thinking about that gives me the chills.”
Some 15 years later, Olivia Pizii is still holding her club the perfect way, and on Tuesday the Petoskey High School senior signed a national letter of intent to play college golf at Ferris State University.
Pizii is the first-ever Petoskey High School girls’ golfer to sign to play in college in the 13-year history of the Northmen progam.
“I’m so excited in that I’m doing what I want to do there and I’ll be playing golf,” said Pizii, who plans to major in Ferris State’s renowned Professional Golf Management program. “It’s the best of both worlds for me.”
Pizii’s home track in college will be Katke Golf Course, the same layout on which she shot a Petoskey school-record 80 last fall in placing second in the Division III regional, leading the Northmen to a third-place team finish and a first-ever berth in the state finals.
That fact was among the many that sold Pizii on Ferris.
“Not only their Professional Golf Management program, but the closeness to home,” she said. “I wasn’t quite ready to go on too far away from home and I’ve heard great things about their team and the program. I’ve met their coach (Michael Mignano) and the team, and I felt like I fit in instantly.
“I like the atmosphere and the common goal of the team which is to work as a team and be competitive. I’m ready for that.”
Pizii said her dream of playing in college began to really take off after her sophomore year. Pizii is just the second four-year letter winner in Petoskey’s history, and holds the nine-hole (39) scoring record and shares the school standard for fewest putts (29) in an 18-hole round.
“I knew my junior year that’s the year you kind of want to take off and get out there and start communicating with colleges,” Pizii said. “At that point, I knew I had to bear down and play well. This year, I knew this was going to be it and I have to get more serious about the game because I was running out of time. It’s scary not knowing at times.”
Three years ago, Pizii began taking lessons with Brian O’Neill, the director of golf instruction for Boyne Resorts, and also played last summer for the Boyne Junior Elite team.
“He’s extremely good at what he does,” Pizii said of O’Neill. “He’s fixed my swing and he fixes things fast. He has a great practice facility I can use and I’ve loved that. He’s just helped my game tremendously.”
O’Neill, who also coaches the Harbor Springs High School girls golf team, said he remembers watching Pizii play years ago and was instantly impressed with her ball striking and ability to move the ball around the golf course.
“I met her father at a match and I got a call a week or two later from him,” O’Neill said. “He said he’s done all he could do on the technical aspect of the game.”
O’Neill said he could tell right away Pizii had the pedigree to become a college golfer.
“She listens well, she can adapt and do drills willingly and try things, and she’s never had a bad attitude,” O’Neill said. “She talked about being a teammate and being on a team and it became a team between her and I.”
A Ferris alum, O’Neill said he’s excited to see a female golfer come out of the area and move onto the next level.