by Alan Hieber
Adversity takes many forms in college sports. For WSU senior golfer Austin Sipe this hasn’t been a defining aspect of his career, but rather a driving force.
Golf teed off for Sipe when he was seven years old at the Moraine Country Club, where his father is the head professional. At Centerville High School, he gained valuable experience when his team qualified for the state tournament four consecutive years.
Sipe felt WSU was the right destination after getting a warm welcome, and he appreciated that being a student was prioritized before athletics.
When it comes to the mentally demanding side of golf, Sipe has an additional hurdle. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was eight years old, and it has been a tumultuous experience at times.
“It reminds me that it’s just a game and there are a lot more important things in life than trying to hit a little golf ball into a four-inch wide hole,” Sipe said.
Sipe says that it can get frustrating when his low blood sugar levels hinder his ability to play. This is something he struggled to accept during his first two seasons for WSU. His freshman and sophomore scoring averages were 79.74 and 77.74 respectively. In that two-year span, his best score for a round was 73.
During his junior season, Sipe got a constant glucose monitor that could measure his blood sugar at all times. This made it more clear how important managing his diabetes is and gave him a better understanding of how it affects diet, exercise and playing golf.
“It made me step back, come back to reality and embrace what I have. Instead of me living with diabetes, I realized it’s going to have to live with me,” Sipe said. “The more you try to push it away the more denial there is. It’s just going to eat you away.”
Since adopting a more positive perspective towards living with diabetes, Sipe has noticed a significant improvement in his golf game and grades. His current season average is 74.23, and he has had three rounds of 68 over the last two years.
The fortitude Sipe has shown is something that WSU coach Pete Samborsky has a lot of respect for.
“Not only does he (Sipe) have to control his emotions, nerves and golf game, but he has to watch the blood sugar,” Samborsky said. “If he mismanages that it wipes him out. He has to fight and do so much more. It’s amazing how well he handles it.”
Sipe says that having a strong support system of family, friends, coaches and teammates has also made an impact.
“Having people who are close to you and know what you’re dealing with everyday definitely goes a long way,” Sipe said.
Sipe spreads awareness for type 1 diabetes by being involved with the JDRF. He also spoke at a dinner following the Miami Valley Classic golf tournament last year since he is a patient at the Bull Family Diabetes Center that is a sponsor of the event.
Another change from Sipe that Samborsky has noticed is an increased level of maturity compared to his freshman season when he would let a bad break negatively influence the rest of his round.
The maturity has carried over to Sipe’s leadership shown by his willingness to help the younger players, according to Samborsky. It’s no surprise that his teammates named him team captain.
“I’m going to be missing the comradery of being with a team and helping players grow,” Sipe said. “I think that’s an important role a captain should always have. It’s meeting the freshman and helping them grow as a player and person.”
WSU senior golfer Ryan Wenzler has been Sipe’s teammate the past six years, including two at Centerville.
Wenzler has made a marked improvement since being cut from the varsity team early in high school and ultimately becoming a Horizon League tournament champion and NCAA regional qualifier last season, which Sipe admires.
“He (Wenzler) pushes me to become a better player than I have been,” Sipe said. “I dually note how he approaches the game before tournaments and carries himself.”
Sipe will be earning his degree in communication studies. After graduation he hopes to continue playing golf, working for golf manufacturer Titleist and caddying.
There is still some unfinished business on Sipe’s mind, and that’s the first Horizon League tournament victory and NCAA regional berth for WSU as a team since 2004. The drive for the title begins Sunday.
“We’re going to walk in there with our chests high and we’re not going to care what people think about us,” Sipe said. “We’re going to do our own thing and treat it as a business trip.”
In Sipe’s WSU career, there has been a wide range of emotions and results. When it is all said and done, he says he will simply miss wearing his Raider gear.
“What I’m going to be missing the most is probably walking around with the gear on campus and being proud to represent the whole university when we travel,” Sipe said.