By Tyler Waldrep
The disappointed faces and groans left no doubt how the family felt when the Golden State Warriors retook the lead in the final minute of game three of the 2017 NBA finals.
“(We’re) so mad at the freaking Cavs for not (winning),” Steve Susce said. “We just want it to go seven games because we’re sports nuts.”
At this, his daughter, who is one of the girls responsible for delivering Spain Park a state title in women’s golf on May 16, is quick to back him up. Jordan Susce said that even the family’s vacations were sports-related.
“We go to parks and games,” she said.
Steve, an All-SEC pitcher by way of Mississippi State who went on to play a few years in the minors, shares far more than a love of sports with his daughter. The pair also possess a burning passion for hard work, and they come by it honestly.
Steve’s father, Paul Susce, also was an All-SEC pitcher and still holds Auburn’s ERA record for a single season – a mark of 0.99 that he set in 1954. Paul pitched at Auburn and later even though had polio. Paul’s father, George “Good Kid” Susce, saw action in 146 major league games across his career, but he perhaps is better known for his time spent as a bullpen coach at the same level with the Boston Redsox.
Paul wasn’t the only one of his brothers to spend time playing the sport professionally. Both John Susce and George Susce Jr. spent some time in the minors. However, only George Jr. made it to the major league level, where he spent most of his five-year career with the Red Sox.
”We got to work at it because we’re not athletic as some other guys,” Steve said. “That’s our M.O., I guess, hard workers that try to do the right thing and try to compete. And once you put the work in you should be better, and you just try to play as long as you can until they tell you, you can’t.”
Jordan previously played tennis, but she stepped away after her sophomore year with the idea of extending her golfing career. It was a decision that paid off when she earned a scholarship to continue playing at Louisville.
“She is really strong and has only begun to tap into her potential, and her game continues to improve,” Louisville head coach Courtney Trimble said in a release announcing Jordan’s signing. “She is one of the athletes you are always looking for and is driven to consistently get better.”
In May, Spain Park coach Kelly Holland watched that same drive for success manifest itself in the state title that Jordan and her teammates had been chasing the past four years.
“She was just determined to finish her senior year with a state championship,” Holland said. “And this whole team, they were such good friends and they really wanted to win it for each other.”
Jordan finished an abbreviated senior season under par during seven of eight rounds, after eligibility issues initially kept her sidelined. The lone exception came on the second day of state championships, when Jordan shot a 5-over-par 77.
Her finish could easily have been worse. Holland watched the senior find herself in bad spots, as all golfers do at times, but the same composure that helped Jordan establish herself as a team leader during her freshman year didn’t abandon her at the close of her Spain Park career.
“A bad hole, a bad shot didn’t affect her,” Holland said. “She had the mentality that she could overcome that and still play well and still score.”
It was easy for Jordan and her teammates to find the motivation for a championship run this season. In their minds, with the talent the team possessed, Spain Park could have reached this point sooner in their careers.
“We knew we had a chance (in the past), but we just didn’t follow through with it, especially me,” Jordan said. “But this year we knew what we needed to do and we did it.”
While the team was in the area, Steve took advantage of the opportunity to take his daughter to see his dad’s plaque in the Auburn sidewalk. It was a physical reminder of his dad’s school record and the work ethic behind it.
“When I was growing up that’s (hard work is) all he knew,” Steve said. “That’s a little bit kind of what he got from his dad. And it’s what I got from my dad and we just kind of passed it down.”
Steve’s father also passed down plenty of stories from his own father’s days as a coach, many of them involving names baseball fans would recognize.
Steve said growing up a Susce came with a certain amount of pressure at times in his playing career, but he learned to feed off it. The pressure-filled moments became the ones worth having, but Steve hasn’t been able to relax just because his career ended.
He now finds himself fighting down shouts of dismay and cheers alike when he watches his daughter golf.
“Every stroke, all 63 of them or 93 of them, is a two-out, bases-loaded pitch,” Steve said.
He might be able to relax a little more now that Jordan’s tournaments at the next level will keep her farther away from home more often than not, and, if everything goes according to plan, she’ll have a lengthy golf career that keeps her busy long after she finishes school at Louisville.
“If we didn’t have sports, what would we do? I honestly don’t know,” Jordan said. “I like growing up knowing my family has been successful, and maybe I and my brothers could maybe do the same thing. But it’s been fun just learning from them and learning from my grandfather. I couldn’t imagine it any other way, honestly.”