Grindstaff reflects on impressive freshman year on the Hill


Wyatt Richardson/WKU Athletics

Freshman Riley Grindstaff of the WKU Hilltoppers men’s golf team plays a qualifying round at Bowling Green Country Club on Sept. 17, 2021.

Piper McCoun, Sports writer

If you keep up with WKU Golf, you’ve heard of Riley Grindstaff, a freshman on the men’s golf team from Franklin, Tennessee.

Back in high school, Grindstaff was ranked among the top 150 of the 2021 signing class, earned runner-up in the Tennessee Boys Junior PGA Championship in 2020 and logged 35 top-three finishes over the entirety of his junior golf career.

His success continued once he arrived at WKU. He put together three top 15 finishes throughout the fall, including two in a row to close out the year.

His 72.3 stroke average led the roster and his sixth-place showing at the Pinetree Intercollegiate was the best Hilltopper result of the season.

Grindstaff’s interest in golf developed early on, as both he and his father could bond over it.

“It was more of something to do to spend time with my dad. He just kind of put a club in my hand growing up,” Grindstaff said. “It started out ever since I could walk, I would just play in the backyard. Whenever we moved to Tennessee, we got a membership at a golf course in my neighborhood, and I would just walk to the golf course everyday.”

The time commitments and demanding schedule of a student athlete has mental and physical ramifications on a college student. To be a successful collegiate golfer, you have to love the game.

“It’s kind of the same, I mean, it’s still golf, but it’s a lot more of a grind and a lot more working,” Grindstaff said on his transition from junior golf to collegiate competition. “We have practice and workouts a lot, so it’s a much busier schedule, but in the end it’s just going to make you better.”

Some people measure their success by the number on their scoresheet, but not Grindstaff. His approach is growth and goal-based.

“I think scores are really relative, you’ll shoot 69 one round and then shoot 70, and it’ll feel completely different,” Grindstaff said. “I don’t really see it as what I shot that day, but it’s what I did well that day. So if I did everything the right way and how I expected to play, then I’m happy with my round. But I don’t really judge it off of the exact score.”

Even if Grindstaff cards a stellar round of golf, if he isn’t feeling himself improve while he does it, it might as well not matter.

“If I’m hitting something well and truly getting better at one thing that I’m working on, then that’s really a bonus for me,” Grindstaff said. “I could go a round and shoot 65 and if I’m not doing the things that I’m working on better than I did the day before, then I’m not really that happy.”

Grindstaff’s journey to WKU was led by the multitude of accolades he earned during his junior golf career.

“I enjoy looking back and seeing what I’ve done in my career, and just proving to myself that I can do certain things that I didn’t think I could or achieving certain accomplishments that I’m proud of,” Grindstaff said.

His freshman year was impressive, but Grindstaff wants to keep his momentum going into 2022 and reach even greater heights.

“I want to have the lowest scoring average ever for a Western Kentucky golfer,” Grindstaff said. “I’m pretty close to it right now. I think I’m just a couple decimals off. Definitely want to do that, make it to regionals, and a national championship.”

Grindstaff, along with the rest of the Hilltopper men’s golf team, will be back in action for the spring season this coming February.

Sports reporter Piper McCoun can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @piper_mccoun.