Golf has been an acquired taste for Lauren Greeny, at one time barely registering on her list of favorites behind volleyball, baseball, basketball and track.
The Pullman High junior laughs and scoffs at the suggestion that golf would become her focus.
“I never would have guessed,” Greeny said. “I took youth golf when I was 8, but I didn’t really ever play.”
That’s because she was busy thriving in other sports. She was on volleyball and basketball teams as early as second grade. She was a pitcher/shortstop in baseball, the only girl in a boys’ league. She dabbled in beach volleyball and placed in the top five at a national tournament in Florida.
It makes perfect sense, considering her parents’ athletic bloodlines. Mom Jen is the volleyball coach at Washington State and has guided the Cougars to five straight NCAA tournaments. She was three-time All-Pac-10 during her WSU playing career.
Dad Burdette is associate head coach for Cougar volleyball. He was a WSU pitcher and spent two years in Milwaukee’s organization. He played baseball and basketball at Tacoma Community College prior to coming to Pullman.
An untimely knee injury in Greeny’s freshman volleyball season at Pullman detoured her sports path toward the golf course.
“I tore the meniscus in my right knee,” she said. “That’s the only reason. I would have never played golf. It’s been a blessing in disguise.”
It just didn’t feel that way at the time. She was facing a lengthy recovery after knee surgery and she wanted to return to her favorite sports, but there was concern about the potential for additional medical issues.
“I had to put my foot down, and it wasn’t pretty sometimes,” Burdette said. “It seemed like the whole house didn’t like me. It was more just looking at the long term, which was hard at that age to see that.”
“I was kind of mad at my dad for not letting me play (other sports),” Lauren said. “I see his logic now.”
Looking for an outlet to channel her athleticism, Lauren asked her mom if she could join Pullman’s golf team.
“I was like, ‘Yeah sure,’ ” Jen recalled. “She came home from golf practice and said her goal was to make it on the varsity. I asked her how many are on the varsity and she said, ‘I don’t know.’
“First tournament she ends up Pullman’s No. 1 and finishes second overall. She said, ‘Mom, can I have one of those pushcart things?’ I didn’t know what that was.”
Fast forward to this spring and Greeny has been one of the best players in the region. She fired rounds of 67 at Downriver, 73 at Palouse Ridge, 77 at Esmeralda and 75 at Latah Creek in Greater Spokane League 2A matches, not to mention a 9-under 63 at Palouse Ridge while playing with her dad.
The latter was Greeny’s first under-par round. Most golfers never break par. If they do, it’s typically by a stroke or two. Greeny made eight birdies, an eagle and one bogey on the Pullman course.
Keep in mind Greeny rarely played before her freshman year. She occasionally joined Burdette to ride in the cart and maybe hit a few balls if the course wasn’t crowded, but she did make a great first impression on dad.
“I remember her being 3 years old, and we bought her little clubs with the little foam balls,” Burdette said. “She’s in the backyard hitting, and I ran inside and said, ‘Jen, you have to come look at this.’ It just looked natural.”
Lauren’s scores were typically in the 90s, occasionally in triple digits, as a freshman. The COVID-19 pandemic shelved the 2020 prep season, but she played in Washington and Idaho junior tournaments over the summer and her scores dropped into the 80s and on better days in the mid-to-upper 70s.
After Greeny’s 6-under 67 last week at Downriver, Burdette posted a video on Twitter of Lauren smacking a 270-yard drive and noted that she shot 102 on the same course as a freshman.
“Kid wants to be great,” Burdette wrote.
“I was not serious about golf until last summer,” Greeny said. “I started improving a ton. I’m on the course almost every day whether I’m practicing at the range or playing 9 or 18. My swing coach (Spokane pro Derek Siesser) helped me change my swing a bit.”
It also helps having parents with athletic backgrounds.
“You’re kind of born into it, and they know what they’re talking about so I have to listen to them,” Lauren said.
There won’t be state golf tournaments for the second straight year due to the pandemic, but Greeny will finish off a strong junior season this week before concentrating on a busy tournament schedule this spring and summer.
Her goal is to play college golf and professionally down the road. Her swift progression suggests both are possible in a sport that wasn’t even in the picture three years ago.
“I’ve learned it to love it,” Greeny said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.