Student Athlete’s Hard Work, Competitive Spirit Has Her on Course to Succeed
Dominika Gradecka, a graduate student and one of the star players on Bellevue University's wildly-successful golf team, started her golfing career in a rather sporadic fashion.
"My brother and I would play at summer camp for two weeks and that was it for the rest of the year," she said. "After the third year of camp something just clicked and I started playing all the tournaments I could."
Gradecka, raised in Wrocław, Poland, began traveling the country, honing her skills by playing against some of Europe's elite youth golfers, both for her high school and as part of the Polish national golf team. She also had some pretty solid competition from her family.
"My brother turned pro in Poland and my dad plays every chance he gets," she said. When asked about how she stacks up against them, she pauses to consider. "Since my brother is a pro, I have to give him the edge," she said begrudgingly. What about your dad? "Oh yeah, I can definitely beat him," she replied with a laugh.
After years of hard work on the European junior circuit, Gradecka wanted to golf at the collegiate level in the US. She found herself at one of the country's top programs in Florida State for two and a half years before transferring to Fresno State and finishing her undergraduate degree.
After graduating, Gradecka had a decision to make — did she want to stay in the states and use her final year of eligibility or return to Europe?
"I was strongly considering going to Spain," she said. "But, at the time, a lot was going on [referring to the pandemic] and I didn't know if the borders were going to be open or what the future was going to look like. Ultimately, I decided to take a chance and enter the transfer portal."
It was at this point Shelly Liddick, Bellevue University's women's golf coach, came across Gradecka.
"In the recruiting process, I'm always looking for kids who genuinely love the game," she said. "It's all about the passion," she continued. "You can have someone that is good but if they're not into it you can't drag them kicking and screaming towards getting better. With Dom, I just saw that love for the game."
Gradecka echoed those sentiments about her coach.
"I was just drawn to how competitive she is," Gradecka said. "It just seemed like a place that I could further grow my skills as a player and work towards the graduate degree that I wanted."
So far, the pairing has proven fruitful.
Gradecka has earned a pair of NSAA Golfer of the Week nods this season and the team recently had first-place finishes at the TPC Deere Run Classic in Moline, Illinois and the Bruin Spring Break Invite in New Braunfels, Texas. Gradecka also made the shortlist for the Arnold Palmer Cup, a collegiate Ryder Cup-style event in which the United States takes on an international squad at the legendary golfer's namesake course in Orlando, Florida.
"It's an honor just to be named," Gradecka said. "They only reserve one spot for players that aren't in Division 1.”
Liddick also believes in her player. "She's been a great addition to the squad.”