FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – For many people, deciding on a life profession or even a collegiate major is a difficult task. Growing up, we are taught that we can be anything we want if we set our mind to it.
For Northern Arizona University's Sierra Bezdicek, a junior Lumberjack on the women's golf team, she took that message to heart as she has considered any and every job possibility in her first two and a half years in Flagstaff.
"I've bounced around on what I've wanted to do in life since I've gotten here," confesses Bezdicek. "I know my family and friends make fun of me for this, but everything tends to work out. If I keep on trying, do the right things and work hard, I feel like everything will fall into place. My latest interest is being a pharmaceutical sales representative."
Regardless of what Bezdicek decides to become one day, there is no indecision when it comes to the game of golf. This is the sport she absolutely loves and being at NAU has only help to fuel that passion and fire. Believe it or not, though, even she had doubts about whether or not she wanted to continue with it collegiately.
As the pressures of picking a university and the demands of being a Division I collegiate athlete weighed on her shoulders, the Colbert, Wash., native's interest in the game began to dwindle. That was before NAU Head Coach Brad Bedortha spotted her on his radar and shifted her thought-process on how to approach golf.
"It definitely helped me coming into college," Bezdicek says, in regards to Bedortha's coaching mentalities, "because there was so much pressure involved with recruiting and picking a school. It kind of sucked the fun out of golf, to be honest. But I would say once I got here, understanding the mindset that it's not about results and that it's about the process, the way you practice and the effort involved, I was able to just go out there and play the game I love."
While Coach Bedortha's influence and lessons have rubbed off on all of the athletes he has coached, Bezdicek was different from the other recruits in a big way: her sister, Savana, was already a golfer at NAU. Leaving the comfort of family and the familiarity of home are too much for some people to overcome. To her credit, though, Bezdicek has always brushed against the grain, choosing to do what she wants instead of succumbing to the pressures of other's influences.
So, with a potential offer from not-so-far-away-from-home Gonzaga, Bezdicek packed her bags and head south to the 928.
"I try to tell everyone that is younger than me that it's important to get out of your comfort zone and experience something different than what you're normally used to," Bezdicek declares. "I think it's important to meet new people, see new places and make new connections. Playing golf, you meet people from all over the country and that aspect made it more interesting and appealing to come down to Flagstaff for college. You also have to realize that my sister was already here and my aunt lives in Phoenix, so it's not like I was completely cut off from family or people that I already knew."
She's right: Savana already attended school here, was a member of the Lumberjack golf team and was more than likely to help her baby sister out with the transition from Washington to Arizona. It is hard to argue with that reality, especially when you consider the kind of success Savana had early on in her career: five top-10 finishes, two tournament victories, All-Big Sky first team her freshman season and subsequently garnered the conference's "Freshman of the Year" award.
It actually lined up perfectly, Bezdicek explains, as her sister was able to ease her into the entire experience the first two years of her collegiate career, imparting useful advice that continues to guide her on and off the course.
"To know that when I got here that she was going to be here for me as a sister and a friend was huge," the younger Bezdicek admits. "I don't know if it's like this in other sports, but in golf, sometimes it feels like this tournament or this round is the end of the world; you have to do well or you're going to be really disappointed. We just get so focused at the task at hand that sometimes we fail to see the bigger picture. My sister has always tried to preach that message to me: to remain calm and to keep things in perspective."
"Yes, she played golf here, but she also received a great education, applied herself and now has a great future ahead of her. It's awesome to compete, but it doesn't define you and it's not the end of the world if you don't play well."
Now, with Savana's athletic eligibility expired, Sierra is the only Bezdicek on the team and is relinquishing the opportunity to be her own person and step outside of her sister's shadow. That level of independence and autonomy has already begun to show during the 2016 fall golf campaign, as Bezdicek carried an impressive 75.16 round scoring average through the first six rounds of the season. Coupled with the best par-3 scoring average (3.16) and the second-most birdies (24) on the team thus far in the 2016-17 season, Bezdicek—already a part of one Big Sky Conference Championship team in 2014—hopes to be an influential leader on the squad come spring time.
This isn't to say Bezdicek, with her sister gone, now has everything figured out. She is humble to the fact she still struggles with confidence on the golf course and needs a reality check from time to time. But the amount of knowledge and advice she has accumulated over the first half of her collegiate career from the coaching staff and her sister has her investing more and more into the game she loves and the person she is.
"Coming here, I kind of knew what to expect because it was the same as high school: 'How is Sierra going to do without Savana?'," says Bezdicek. "I think I'm able to adapt pretty well, and she helped me create a foundation. She has always been there for me and continues to fulfill that older sister role."
"[Graduate Assistant Coach Langley Vannoy] has also really helped me to find ways to deal with adversity. I'm my own worst enemy most of the time, so to have her there and her reassurance definitely helps to put me back in the right frame of mind."
There is something admirable about Bezdicek's unencumbered calmness to let life come to her. That mindset has certainly crept into her golf game, as she continues to excel with each and every season. Many—including herself—don't know what profession she will eventually settle on, but if there is one thing you can say about Bezdicek, it is this: she is a caring and dedicated individual who has committed herself to becoming a better athlete and person.
Usually, opportunities find their way to those kind of character traits.