Hampton grad Marissa Balish embraces the unknown in golf, life
Golf is a high-pressure individual sport that requires someone adept at dealing with discomfort and adversity.
Maybe that’s why Hampton’s Marissa Balish always excelled at it.
From playing on the boys team in high school, to embracing being the only senior on her Ohio University golf team, to moving to Silicon Valley by herself for an internship, Balish has been through a lot.
“I feel like I’ve had a great three years,” Balish said. “I just couldn’t ask for a better team culture throughout. I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person, player and professionally as well. So I know I made the right choice coming here.”
Promoting the culture is one thing coach Kelly Ovington focuses on, largely because golf teams have a different dynamic that makes it harder to establish a bond between the players.
“I think she knew she’d be stepping in big shoes this year, so she started the process early,” said Ovington. “We’re fortunate our team culture is pretty strong, and we support each other. It’s hard in individual sports. Many times, we compete against each other and travel as a team. I think Marissa has been a big part of the culture and trying to help the freshmen and sophomores do the same.”
Balish always has been comfortable in a leadership role. At Hampton, there is no girls golf, so she joined the boys team. As a senior, she was elected captain and led the team to the playoffs. She also finished as WPIAL champion.
High school was when Ovington first witnessed Balish’s ability to keep a level head and perform under pressure.
“Watching her compete was one of the turning moments of why I wanted her to be a Bobcat,” Ovington said.
Ovington saw Balish shank two consecutive shots off the tee box out of bounds, but perfect execution isn’t what the coach was looking for.
“And then she hits the green, makes the putt and goes to the next hole. Then she went par, par, like nothing ever happened … in golf those things happen. You have to get over it. I said, ‘This is what I need right now.’ Her ability to refocus and get back on track was exactly what I was looking for.”
Balish said it wasn’t difficult going from playing alongside boys to playing on the women’s team in college.
“It was sort of uncharted territory playing on a girls team,” she said. “I liked playing on the men’s team because it was competitive in high school. But it didn’t feel like an adjustment. It was seamless because I had a great group of girls that helped me get acclimated and a great coach that allowed me to be successful.”
Last season, Balish competed in nine events for the Bobcats for a 79.83 average. She finished tied for 26th place at the Rio Verde Invitational, shooting a two-round total of 151 (9-over-par). She also had a top-40 finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships with a three-round total of 240 (24-over).
Balish, a management information systems major with a minor in marketing, spent the summer in Silicon Valley as a sales intern at Sumo Logic, a machine-based data analytics company.
“I was super passionate about it and in a company that had a really great culture,” she said. “I just had a great experience living out there by myself and allowing myself to seek comfort in being consistently uncomfortable. I think I’m passionate about my major because it’s something that’s challenging but attainable.”
In her spare time, Balish enjoys good food — enough to have started her own Instagram food photography account, @foodbabypgh, which has more than 3,500 followers. She got the idea while looking for places to eat in Chicago years ago.
“I noticed there were a few accounts in Pittsburgh but nothing like New York, Chicago or L.A. I always was a foodie and had a passion for trying new places … It became this little side hustle. I don’t make money off it, but it’s something I’m also passionate about.”