State golf title continues to pay dividends for Quaker Valley Hall of Fame inductee Kelly Collins Grip

Saturday, July 14, 2018 | 12:45 AM

When Kelly Collins Grip is inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 21, she will feel right at home.

That’s the because the induction ceremony will take place at Sewickley Heights Golf Club, which was right outside her backyard growing up and served as her home course.

“We lived on the second green of Sewickley Heights. It was a great playground for my mother to tell my five siblings and me to go out and play a round of golf,” she said. “We all started playing when we were young. I started playing at 9 and competitively at 11. My parents were wonderful people and very supportive. Golf was what I did in the summer. I played every day.”

With her best friend, Becky Sweet, living just a short distance away, the two grew up on the links at Sewickley Heights.

“Sewickley Heights was blessed with people who put together a junior program, which was one of the few places in our area that offered one,” Grip said. “It was a great program, too. It taught you the rules and etiquette. It really groomed many of us to play the game properly. Even to this day, I am probably the fastest player on the course because those instincts kick in.”

Quaker Valley did not field a girls high school golf program when Grip was in school. Instead, she golfed for the boys team, but was able to qualify for the girls postseason tournament.

“I could never outhit the guys. Where I could do some damage was around the greens and with my short game,” she said. “I’d have to play from the men’s tees. So, I’d go from playing all these courses playing from them men’s tees to trying to qualify for the PIAA tournament playing off the ladies’ tees.”

During the fall of her senior year, she had no problem making the adjustment. Grip reached the top flight of the PIAA championship at Carlisle Country Club and came away with the 1977 state championship.

She carded a 167 to beat Upper St. Clair’s Nancy Tomich by two strokes.

“As I look back on that now, it seems so surreal. At the time, it was pretty exciting and sort of the pinnacle of all my years growing up,” she said. “I just put a couple good rounds together, and I ended up walking away with the championship. It has served me so well throughout my career, too. I can’t believe how many people want to talk about that state title. I got into the banking and financial services industry, and I’ve been able to play golf with clients. I have had some success and a lot of laughs. It continues to pay dividends to this day.”

Grip credits the Sewickley Heights course for helping shape her game.

“When you come from a really challenging home course and go play other places, it kind of gives you a head start,” she said. “I do not believe I have ever played a course of 18 holes in its totality that is as difficult as Sewickley Heights. If you can put a good two nines together in one round there, you’ve done really well. It was a great course and I was very blessed. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

She continued her athletic and academic careers at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She had to golf on the men’s team there, too.

“The hardest thing with winning is what do I do after that? Where do I go from there? It really forces you to have to think in the future,” she said. “If I really wanted to pursue a career in the sport, I would have gone south, but I felt like I achieved what I wanted.”

She lives in Nashua, N.H., with her husband, Brian. They have a son, Alex, who is 28, and a daughter, Taylor, who is 24.

Joe Sager is a contributing writer.

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