Tee Pazitney’s transition from softball to golf brings camaraderie, competition

Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of profiles about Miami Valley Golf Association members.

By Jeff Louderback

On this particular afternoon, it’s Ft. Myers, where she plays 18 holes before joining her friends in the clubhouse to continue to camaraderie.

Check back in another month, and perhaps you will find her on a course in California, Arizona or New Jersey if she isn’t on the links in the Dayton area logging a round or two, and expanding her network of friends.

“Golf is better described as a lifestyle than a sport,” said Tee Pazitney, an accomplished golfer in the Miami Valley who has won multiple tournaments but treasures casual rounds as much as she embraces competitive events. “No matter where you travel, you can find a golf course, and you can make new friends who equally appreciate the athletic and social elements.”

There are few people better suited to develop a passion for golf, you might think, than a woman called “Tee.” She earned that nickname from athletic endeavors, but it was for her skills on the diamond, and not the links.

“I was a little girl who played t-ball at an early age, and the name remained into adulthood,” Pazitney said with a grin. “Now, when people ask how I spell it, I tell them, ‘Just like a golf tee!’”

Pazitney gravitated from t-ball to competitive softball at Chaminade-Julienne High School, where she graduated in 1979, and then Ball State University. After her career as a college athlete. She coached at Miami University and Indiana University before serving as director of athletics at the Miami Valley School. That led to teaching and coaching volleyball, basketball and softball at Kettering Middle School for 25 years.

Before she played golf for the first time in the mid-90s, she used to think “who are these crazy people hitting a little white ball in miserable conditions like rain, heat and cold?” Now, Pazitney is among those “golf enthusiasts.”

Pazitney first hit from a golf tee in her mid-30s when the softball diamond no longer satisfied her competitive drive.

“I still wanted to play competitive softball, not recreational softball, but there was little interest among other people in my age group,” she said., “I was accustomed to competitive sports, so I looked for a new challenge. A friend introduced me to golf, and I immediately loved everything about the game, from the fundamentals and techniques, to the experience of being out on a course among new and old friends.

“The first decade was frustrating because I always had to find the ball. I had a softball swing, and I had no idea where the ball was headed,” Pazitney said with a laugh. “As an athlete and a coach, I knew first-hand that any sport requires discipline and practice if you want to be successful. Through family and friends, my love for golf was nurtured with their patience and encouragement.”

Pazitney credits retired pro Mike Kissel as “a mentor who helped me learn the fundamentals” and Hugh Wall for “teaching me what I needed to take my game to a competitive level.” Miami Valley golf legend Diana Schwab provided encouragement when Pazitney first picked up a set of clubs.

“She knew me as a high school athlete and provided encouragement when I was first learning the sport,” Pazitney said. “Golf allows you to work as hard as you want and be as competitive as you want because you can practice by yourself, with a friend or two, or with a group. It depends on you.”

If you have an extended conversation about gold with Pazitney, she is more likely to emphasize the friendships and the camaraderie of the sport than particulars about tournament championships.

“I started as a double-digit handicap and gradually progressed to the single digits, but I play golf with anyone of any skill level,” she said. “Golf provides a community of people that can become lifelong friends. I have a group of friends who missed each other so much in the winter that we started getting together and playing dominoes. These wonderful people keep me laughing in every season of the year.”

Pazitney offers a few nuggets of advice for people who are beginners and eager to learn the sport.

“Golf keeps you humble,” she said. “Just when you think you are on top, then you encounter unexpected obstacles. Perhaps those challenges are weather conditions or terrain, or maybe you just lose focus and get out of rhythm.

“Just remember this,” she added with a smile. “Have fun. Enjoy the experience on the course and with your friends back at the clubhouse. Don’t take it too seriously because you’re not playing for pink Cadillacs!”

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