A guy recently walked into the clubhouse of the Dye Preserve in south Florida and said to Anna Grzebien, “You’re the third one.”
Grzebien looked at him quizzically.
“Christina Kim,” the man continued, “Sandra Gal … you’re Anna.”
Ah, yes. He had seen the pictures. Grzebien (guhr-ZAY-bee-ehn) posed nude in ESPN’s “Body Issue” in 2009, and the experience is now so far removed that she had forgotten about it. Grzebien, a Duke grad, NCAA champion and newly retired LPGA professional, makes a living these days as membership director at the Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Fla. Those pictures, however, will always be a quick Google image search away.
“I don’t regret it,” Grzebien said recently by telephone. “I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into.”
While many of her peers sweat it out on the LPGA in muggy Thailand this week, the 27-year-old Grzebien will be busy in her new country club office. Her decision to call it quits after the 2012 season is a familiar story: It’s not easy living out of a suitcase for the mere possibility of a paycheck.
“I think it takes a certain type of person to do that for the long haul, to be honest,” she said.
Grzebien was living with good friend Devon Quigley when he suffered a devastating car accident on Dec. 1, 2011 in Riviera Beach, Fla. The Rhode Island pair had known each other since childhood, and she spent many hours at his hospital bedside after the crash. (Devon is Champions Tour player Dana Quigley’s son.)
“When I had to leave for the season, it killed me not to be able to see him,” she said.
Then in August, Grzebien’s grandmother was involved in a car accident in Rhode Island while Grzebien was playing a tournament in Toledo, Ohio. She withdrew from the event to say her goodbyes.
“It just put (life) in perspective,” Grzebien said. “This golf thing is not that big a deal.”
Imagine going into the office every day for work and having a scorecard evaluate the day’s performance. After a while, it’s hard not to let that number determine self-value. It’s a common problem among pros, one that wears players down to the point that they can no longer find perspective in what is merely a game.
When loved ones called Grzebien after a bad round, she found herself ignoring phone calls or saying she didn’t want to talk.
“That’s not the person I am,” she said. “I wanted something else.”
In five years on the LPGA, Grzebien made $266,678. Her best finish was a tie for 13th. The true legacy of this fair-haired player’s career can be found in Durham, N.C.
Grzebien was a four-time All-American at Duke, a member of three national-championship teams and winner of the 2005 NCAA Championship. She was fiery and focused at Duke, but that drive waned in the years that followed.
“I respect and I admire those people who can do it,” she said.
But it’s time for her to move on.