Growing up, Isabelle Maleki would have preferred that golf be an optional activity in her house. However, that was never one of the options made available to her or her three siblings by her father.
“My dad decided when I was really young that golf was a non-negotiable for me and my siblings,” Maleki, a senior at Homestead High School in Mequon, wrote recently in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf, saying that older brother Charlie and younger brother Oliver had no problem with conforming to Sy Maleki’s wishes but that she and younger sister Lilly “only did the bare minimum” when it came to golf.
“I think selfishly he wanted to make sure he always got to play and he knew if he was taking the kids out to golf, my mom (Katie) wouldn’t question the hours spent on the course. There were plenty of times that I did not enjoy my weekly lessons or junior golf in the summer, but we always went. My parents kept telling me that someday I would be happy that I knew how to play a game that I could play throughout the majority of my life.”
That she recently made the decision to play the next four years of it at UW-Green Bay represents a tremendous change of heart on Maleki’s part. Just like she was a late and reluctant arrival to high school golf, Maleki never fancied herself trying to juggle golf and school during college, either.
Even after she started to see significant gains in her game, under the eye of swing instructor and former University of Wisconsin golfer David Roesch, she didn’t think she could play golf at the NCAA Division I level. Maleki saw the amount of time, energy and commitment that her brother Charlie has put into competing over the past two-plus seasons at Marquette University and it “seemed overwhelming” to her so she turned her collegiate focus to the Division III level.
“My junior season came and went and I saw a lot of success on the course and I started to enjoy the game a little bit more,” Maleki wrote. “And then I started to think about the fact that I would only have one more season of competitive golf and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I started to think I might really miss it. ... I continued playing in tournaments during the summer and I started to see really good changes in my game. And I started to enjoy it that much more.
“And I started to wonder if maybe I wanted something more from my college golf experience. But I also knew it was a little late in the game to change directions. I was looking at a handful of Division III schools in Minnesota and I was really comfortable with those options.”
That was until Phoenix coach Lee Reinke got her on the Green Bay campus Sept. 21.
It didn’t take him long to convince Maleki that, following perhaps the most decorated recruiting class in program history in 2017, that she could launch the 2018 class into that category. They toured the campus in golf carts, walked through the athletic facilities, academic buildings and student union, checked out a dormitory, met with athletic trainers and academic counselors and quizzed members of the men’s and women’s golf teams (Reinke coaches both of the squads).
Green Bay fit the description of what Maleki wanted in a college. It was a mid-sized college in a rural setting with a strong science department within driving distance of home. She plans to major in human biology with a goal of being a physical therapist or a physician’s assistant.
“It was almost crazy how many of those items I was able to check off my list by going to UWGB,” Maleki said. “I chatted with Coach Lee whenever we were driving around campus in the golf cart and just had such a great feeling about him. One thing that is apparent within minutes of talking to Coach Lee is his passion and dedication to the golf program at UWGB.
“His commitment is contagious.”
It must have been because it didn’t take Maleki long to make a commitment to the Phoenix as well. She toured UWGB on a Thursday, new where she wanted to go the next morning, spent the weekend discussing her options with her parents and then called Reinke on Sunday night.
“The minute I committed I felt a huge sense of relief and excitement,” Maleki wrote. “Though you never really know until you know, I feel so great about where I’m going to be this time next year.”
And Maleki also feels comfortable telling others that her parents told her when it came to golf
“The advice I would give someone else going through this process,” she said, “is to not be closed-minded to opportunities.”