Mythbusters: Golf and Tennis


Nash Bosma

Jr. Will Niziolek gazing down the fairway after his shot at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club.

Tyler Berens and Nathan Riley

On May 4, 2022, Jr. Will Niziolek played on the Meadows of GVSU during the Grand Haven Jamboree. He was faced with a birdie shot that would determine the outcome of his golf match. His ball rested in the rough ten yards from the green. All Niziolek could imagine was the ball hitting the bottom of the cup. He walked to the edge of the green one last time, lining up his shot. He took a deep breath and headed back to his bag. This was the most nervous Niziolek had ever been before a shot. He selected his club and wiped it clean with a towel. 

   Exhaling deeply, Niziolek stepped up to his ball, going through his pre shot routine. He stepped to the side to take a couple practice strokes. His power felt dialed in, so Niziolek returned to his ball. After checking his line for the final time, Niziolek set his feet and swung. 

   The ball flew into the air, landing inches away from his intended spot. The ball skipped once, then bounced twice, and then rolled the rest of the way towards the hole. Niziolek wasn’t sure if he had put enough power into his stroke. Everything fell out of focus, as the ball crept toward the hole. With a soft rattle the ball dropped into the hole.  Niziolek had won his match placing first overall being the only person to shoot an even par that day, leading his team to a fifth place finish.

   According to Niziolek and Jr. Elliot Dozeman, people think that golf and tennis are leisurely activities, however to them, the sports are anything but. 

   Niziolek, who has been a member of the West Ottawa Varsity Golf team since his freshman year, feels this misconception doesn’t represent the sport of golf. “People think it’s very easy, golf is actually one of the hardest sports to get good at and progress in,” said Niziolek. Niziolek has had people tell him that they could be just as good as him if they played. Niziolek says that people don’t understand how hard it is to lower the overall score. Adding ten yards to a drive or a certain spin on the ball doesn’t mean lower scores, consistency and accuracy on every shot is what contributes to lower scores. 

   To refute the misconceptions that Niziolek presented, one must look into a typical practice for Niziolek. Practice starts with him on the driving range for up to an hour and a half, followed by a session on the chipping range for 30 to 40 minutes. Then Niziolek takes a trip to the putting green for about two hours. He finishes his day getting on the course and playing nine holes. Easy sports don’t require six hours of daily practice.

   West Ottawa tennis player Dozeman, also a varsity athlete since his Freshman year, feels similarly about the misconceptions of tennis.

Jr. Elliot Dozeman in the middle of his serve at a home match. (Laura Veldhof)

   Another common belief is that people only excel at tennis if they have natural born talent. Dozeman didn’t start playing tennis more than once a year until he turned 13, when he joined the middle school team. Dozeman wasn’t breaking any records when he started playing, but with hard work and consistency, he was able to become the player he is today. Dozeman practices 14 to 16 hours a week, and these practices consist of a two hour practice session as a group. He then plays half a match before working on his serve for about half an hour. All of this hard work has contributed to his development as a player, not natural born talent.

   In the off-season, Dozeman and Niziolek also implement weight lifting into their training to increase their strength. In sports like football, basketball, soccer, or other common team and contact sports, weightlifting is an important piece of training that allows someone to achieve success. A common fallacy is that sports like golf or tennis don’t require such training. All athletes must train their bodies not just to improve their performance, but also to protect themselves from injuries. 

   Dozeman’s fastest recorded serve was 109 mph which doesn’t just happen without serious work in the weight room. Niziolek said his drives have gained five yards in two weeks from his commitment.  

   To disprove the misconceptions of both golf and tennis, a matchup of golf and tennis was scheduled. Riley challenged Niziolek to nine holes of golf and Dozeman to two games of tennis. Riley thought himself a subpar golfer, playing two to three times in the summer months. He plays much less tennis than golf, about once or twice a year. The golf match took place on the front nine at Macatawa Golf Club, and the tennis match started with Dozeman serving followed by Riley serving up a game.

   Going into the match against Niziolek, Riley thought it would be a double digit victory for Niziolek, but to his surprise, the scorecard showed Riley only six shots behind. Riley shot eight over par for a total of 44 strokes, and Niziolek two over par with a score of 38. The difference between Riley and Niziolek was much more apparent on the course than just looking at the final score. Niziolek was much more focused than Riley, who approached the round more relaxed. This serious approach caused Niziolek to become agitated after a bad shot, while Riley shook it off, as shanking a shot into the water or tall grass was normal for him. Niziolek had way more control over the ball than Riley. Niziolek could put a certain spin on the ball to land it closer to the flag, while Riley’s shots often required a lucky bounce to settle on the green more than 50 yards away. Niziolek’s shots flew much farther and straighter than Riley’s, showing the extra time put into his swing translates to a better drive. 

   The tennis match, however, went worse than expected, with Dozeman completely dominating both games and Riley only scoring once each game. When Dozeman served, Riley was only able to score off of Dozeman’s double fault.While Riley was serving, he was able to earn a point off of a stray return from Dozeman. Riley could only make contact on Dozeman’s second serve, which averages in the high 70s, compared to his first serve, which clocks in at 109 mph. Riley’s serves on the other hand rarely found the service boxes. When the ball somehow managed to stay in bounds, it was easily smashed by Dozeman for a point. Similarly to Niziolek’s golf swing, Dozeman had unbelievable control of his shots. He could make the ball bounce a certain height and direction while still hitting the ball with incredible power. 

   The difference in skill between Riley and the two other athletes is vast. Riley was handled by Niziolek and completely dominated by Dozeman. Golf requires practiced precision and intense focus. Riley didn’t have the required focus, but Niziolek did and it showed. Dozeman commanded his match against Riley by barely even allowing Riley to score. The contest was comparable to keep-away with a child. These sports aren’t something that one can just pick up out of the blue and expect to excel at, they require time and dedication to play competitively.

   However, the difficulty should not deter someone from playing golf or tennis because lack of skill doesn’t limit the fun one can have. Most people who play these two sports don’t play to compete competitively, but as a way to enjoy themselves. “You can really just grab a racket and balls and head to a public court,” said Dozeman.