March 2008

Women in Sports: Rachel Uremovich

Author: Steve Flannery

My exposure to the women’s sports movement was firsthand. The evolution of the participation of women in sports was introduced to me by my mom, Jane Flannery, who was the women’s physical education teacher and coach of all women’s sports programs at our small school in upstate New York. She remains a profoundly influential driving force behind the success of thousands of young people, including my sisters, who played multiple high school sports with “Coach Mom” as their mentor.

The transition from women playing intramural type contests to playing organized league, sectional, state and college programs really exploded in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Professional opportunities for women in sports have also blossomed since the ’70s with the advent of the WTA, WNBA, the LPGA, and (until 2003) the WUSA as viable places for women to pursue a professional career in sports. (Despite the failure of the WUSA, the Women’s National Soccer Team has had continued successes competing in both World and Olympic championships.)

Coach Mom’s drive and dedication to the student athletes she prepared for life will be a constant inspiration to me. The decade of the ’70s saw a paradigm shift in how women were offered their first chance at interscholastic sports opportunities. I saw it up close in the mid to later years of that time as my older sister, Patty, competed in extremely limited, mostly intramural high school sports and games. When she pursued her career at Boston College, their club-level soccer team had 90 people come out for 20 spots. A mere four years later, my highly-recruited younger sister, Annie, played Division One Basketball as a full scholarship athlete. (Annie is in the Syracuse Orange Pack Hall of Fame for her Academic All American exploits as captain of her basketball team.)

Getting to know Rachel Uremovich
Enter our next women’s sports warrior: Rachel Uremovich. The girl is a bit special. You’ll only be allowed to call her a “girl” for a bit longer, as she’s well on her way to full blown womanhood. She’s self-assured, relaxed, focused and, well ok, she’s still a kid. How do I know that? For starters, she’s unconsciously popping her gum all during the entire photo shoot for this article. She’s smiling effortlessly during each shot, the long, drawn out composure of each dreary session set-up is having no effect on her sparkling attitude. We make a pact to meet the following afternoon for some grub which she’ll sandwich between the end of school and the beginning of her part time job. Our casual conversation over Mexican food begins with her offering up this little tidbit: she’s waiting to hear about a full golf scholarship from the University of Virginia to compete with her second choice, The College of Charleston. She’s been offered a full ride there and she already likes the team, the coaches, and the facilities. Her “fallback” choice seems like an easy one to live with should the UVA offer fail to materialize. Rachel is calm and cool in recounting her options. I’m a bit overwhelmed. Never ceases to amaze me how someone can be as blasé about something as serious as the rest of her life!

Rachel visits this very same Fiesta Fresh as many as three times a week. (I come clean with my love of the Gringo Burrito.) She reveals that she eats lunch during the first of three lunch periods at the high school, which begin at ten-thirty. Her level of hunger is expressed in the fierce, white-knuckled cutting of her chicken floutas. She attacks them with the ravenous intensity of a starving teenager—which she is. I call her on it and she laughs heartily. Did I mention that she’s crazy about her truck? It’s adorned with her Bob Marley sticker and countless others expressing her adoration for Bob’s music plus a few popular bands and prevailing sentiments of today. This vehicle is her freedom, her pride and joy. After we dine, we’re down to the business of getting to know her a bit better.

CH2: Any outward golf influences in your game? Your swing? Who you pattern yourself after?

Rachel: I like feeling myself and my own comfort level; I don’t look at TV to see someone’s swing to pattern myself after.

CH2: You looked really confident holding your club all during the photo shoot the other day.

Rachel: I definitely get excited whenever I pick up a club; it becomes an extension of me, I guess.

CH2: Here’s some boring boilerplate for you kid: What is your favorite subject?

Rachel: Right now?

CH2: Well, how about this? Tell me what are you studying that you could see yourself utilizing in life? Let’s say you like accounting or you like art or computers…

Rachel: Right now, the only one I like is Algebra II, and that’s only because I absolutely hate math, but I love my teacher because she is amazing. She’s young. You might know her… Adriano Urato? I love her! She’s what makes math enjoyable for me. She’s 27 with a young daughter and, well…she’s a really great teacher. It’s funny to me, because I absolutely detest the subject of math but she knows how to keep me focused in class.

CH2: I had a tough English teacher, Mrs. Jean Hammond who, despite my best efforts to thwart her efforts, was a powerful influence on me and my siblings. I can’t tell you where I’d be without the teachers who championed my personalized learning experiences in high school.

Rachel: I know what you mean. I had a really great English teacher last semester who has been at the high school for a very, very long time. She actually taught my boss, Jessica, (her supervisor at the Oyster Factory) when she was in school. I guess she made me feel that high school could have more of a private school feel as I had transferred from a private school.

CH2: Tough transition for you?

Rachel: No, it was a great transition but the teachers were just going to be less personalized then at the private school. I had a lot of one-on-one at the private school versus the high school.

CH2: Here’s the one-on-one question…First time you ever beat your Dad in golf? Head to head?

Rachel: I don’t know. I have no idea, but I do remember the first time that he and I were out playing and I hit a drive that was right beside his. At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “OH MY GOD!” I also remember the first time there was this one hole on the Arthur Hills course where I just could not clear this big grassy way. And the first time I did, I thought it was amazing. My Dad was there too. We always talk about that.

CH2: Do you have any other sports passions besides golf?

Rachel: Mmmmm…secretly I love…

CH2: I gotta tell you, it’s not going to be a secret after this comes out…

Rachel: Oh, I know, (laughing)I love…well, ok…the softball coach asked me to play this year and it was such a hard decision to say no, because I used to play baseball with the guys and we won the World Series in Virginia.

CH2: I remember that! Was that the Dixie World Series?
Rachel: Yeah, we won the Dixie World Series in 2001. I think I was the first girl ever to play in the World Series; they made a really big deal out of that. Back then, I didn’t look much like a girl, so they were a bit surprised when they found out they got struck out by a girl. (World’s biggest smile!)

CH2: That sounds like you really got into it. What position did you play?

Rachel: I was a pitcher and played left field. I pitched in two of the World Series games.

CH2: That is impressive, I wish my sisters were here to listen to this. They’d love your attitude! How many in your family?

Rachel: I have a sister who is two years older than me. Margaret is probably the biggest influence in my life. She’s one of the head hosts at the Oyster Factory and is studying at USCB. Oh, and we have five cats.

CH2: Five cats? What are the names of your five cats?

Rachel: Opal, Leroy, Virgil, Sam and Junior.

CH2: Sounds like a Western movie cast.

Rachel: Well, my Dad names them all.

CH2: Nuff said. Moving on! How did you like your photo shoot?

Rachel: It was a lot of fun. I did one other that won some award for the Island Packet. I’m jumping up in the air playing air guitar with my golf club.

Air guitar indeed. Like any human being in this millennium, I took to the Google netwaves when looking for some fresh information on Ms. Uremovich. The very first item displayed was a recounting of the 2006 Women’s Junior Golf Georgia vs. South Carolina Championship. I looked at the pictures of the smiling victors: Rachel Uremovich, Elizabeth Freeman, Taylor Weaver, Taylor Barrett. Then I looked even closer to the scores. The score sheet showed some typical match play scores…3 and 2, 3 and 1, etc. (i.e. three holes up with two remaining; three holes up with one remaining.) Rachel’s first day score was 9 and 7. That’s an impressive effort to say the least. She says that last year was a great year for her but she is working to get better and better, practicing every chance she has.

Rachel has an important decision to make: eight hours away in Virginia or two hours away in Charleston. She’s very self-actualized and looking forward to the next step. Rachel sees herself with a possible future in professional golf.

I hope that the powers that be are prepared to make some room in the trophy cases of either the University of Virginia or the College of Charleston for some new silverware. There will be a new force to be reckoned with on their campus and on their university golf courses very soon. The name of that considerable force will be Rachel Uremovich.

I ask her if she knows of LPGA professional, Hollis Stacy, who lived here in Sea Pines when I moved here in the early eighties. She did not but offered to look up her exploits via Google. We talked of another LPGA local, Reilley Rankin. Rankin played recreational softball with this intrepid writer over in Bluffton as a sixteen year old. At the time I couldn’t quite figure out why she was chunking clods of dirt on the ground with her Easton aluminum bat in the on-deck circle. “Reilley! Take a good practice swing!” I yelled from the third base coaching box. “I am,” she responded flatly and kept on chunking those dirt clods. It took me a while to put the golf swing and the name together, but by the time I did, she was winning awards as a full scholarship freshman golfer at the University of Georgia.

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