Golf: Steward defies doubters, finds success at UM

Jessica Steward was at a crossroads after her freshman year at Boston College. Steward was told by her own coach that she was not good enough to play at the college level, had a less than stellar work ethic and did not prove herself as a player. Steward proved her coach and other doubters wrong after becoming one of the finest players at her new home, the University of Miami.

Steward has set a Miami record, won her first tournament and has been given a prestigious award in her second season with the University of Miami Women’s Golf team.

The junior from Mystic, Connecticut set a University of Miami 54-hole scoring record and was named Golfweek Women’s Player of the Week after an outstanding performance at the Georgia State Pelican Preserve Invitational in Fort Myers. Steward had an impressive eight-stroke victory and finished with a seven-under-par total of 209 (69-68-72). The previous record of 212 was established by Penny Hammel in 1982 and was later shared by Tracy Kerdyk, Julie Brand and Tina Miller. The record and award coincided with Steward’s remarkable first win of her collegiate career, and the first by a Hurricane since Tina Miller won the Ryder Collegiate Championship in 2005.

“It was really exciting to be given that award,” Steward said. “I had been told by a lot of people that I was not good enough and not capable of winning. But, the culmination of hard work and wanting to prove myself really showed what I could accomplish.”

Steward increased her lead after every round and posted a seven-under-par 137, posting a Miami 36-hole record in the process.

Steward’s success can be attributed to her ability to improve putting coming into the fall season.

“The short game has been the main difference in my game,” she said. “When I was not hitting the ball long enough or well the last couple of years, I was not able to recover in the short game and my game suffered.”

Steward has been the Hurricanes top finisher in all four tournaments and has placed in the top ten in three of those tournaments. In her latest tournament, Steward fired a respectable three round total of 217 (71-76-70) and settled for a third-place tie at the Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate in Kiawah Island, SC.

Steward has posted sub-part scores in four of her last six rounds of golf in the fall season. She also finished in ninth place at the Wildcat Fall Classic in Lexington, Kentucky, leading the Hurricanes to a fifth place finish.

Despite her fallout at Boston College, Steward had many options to play golf at many of the top colleges around the nation. She said the University of Miami was her best option.

“I found Miami as a place where I can improve my game the most,” Steward said. “They have a warm climate where I can play golf all-year round and their facilities were the best in the country.”

Steward started playing golf at age 11 and was influenced by her parents and older brother to take up the game. She credited her older brother’s success as a golfer as motivation for continuing to play golf and aspiring to play at a high level.

Steward is a Sports Administration major and aspires to be a golf coach at the collegiate ranks in the future.

“The two things I love in life are traveling and golfing,” Steward said. “To do those things and having a career as a coach would make me the happiest person.”

Alex Kushel may be contacted at