Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Americans are often criticized for taking sports too seriously — but it’s Jayde Panos’ favorite thing about living here.
Panos, a native of Perth, Australia, is a senior on the Oklahoma State Golf team who’s finishing up her last season with the Cowgirls.
Although she misses some of the food and experiences from back home — she said American barbecue took a while to get used to — Panos said she loves living in Stillwater, Okla.
“I love the southern culture,” Panos said. “I feel like people are so welcoming and have arms wide open.”
However, Panos wasn’t always this excited about living in America.
“My dad wanted me to go to the U.S. to play in a tournament and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that,’” Panos said. “And he told me to just go and try something new, so I went.”
Despite her initial objections, the trip worked out well for Panos. Josh Fosdick, an assistant coach for the Cowgirl Golf team from 2009 to 2011, recruited her to come play for Oklahoma State.
Panos wasted no time getting back to America. Originally recruited in July, she was in Stillwater by the next January, only six months later.
Transitioning to life in a new country wasn’t as difficult for Panos as most would have expected because she’d gotten used to being on her own after high school.
“In Australia, we graduate when we’re like 17,” Panos said. “I did a year of just working and playing golf, and then I came here. So I’d been out of high school for a year when I came to Oklahoma State.”
Lauren Falley, Panos’ roommate when she first moved to Stillwater, said it was entertaining to watch Panos adjust to life in America.
“She had never seen snow before and it snowed for about two weeks as soon as she showed up,” Falley said.
In spite of her unfamiliar surroundings, Panos instantly impacted the team.
“We had just lost two girls the semester before so she came in and immediately became a leader for us,” Falley said.
Panos said the hardest part of the move was not seeing her parents every day. However, she said her busy golf schedule helps distract her from missing home too much.
“There’s just so much going on in college,” Panos said. “In Australia, you don’t take a trip on the weekend to go to Vegas to play in a golf tournament, or you don’t take a trip to Florida on the weekend to play a three-day golf tournament with your teammates. I sort of got in and made my life as full as possible so I didn’t feel empty not having my family around.”
Her schedule may sound stressful to some, but Panos wouldn’t have it any other way. She said she loves the hectic life of a student-athlete because it’s not something she would have gotten to experience in Australia.
“In Australia, you either play sports or you go to school,” Panos said. “We don’t have college sport, and if we do, it’s just for fun. There are no people that go to college to be a professional athlete.
“So for me, coming over here and being around people that have the same values, there’s nothing like that back in Australia. You all take your sports so seriously and I love that.”
Panos enjoys living in America so much that she plans to come back as soon as she can after she graduates from Oklahoma State. She said she wouldn’t mind living in Stillwater again when she returns.
Panos said her favorite place in Stillwater — and just about anywhere — is Karsten Creek, where the Cowgirl Golf team practices.
“I really love Karsten Creek,” Panos said. “When I'm away from it, I miss it so much. It really is my favorite place to be in the world, and people might think I'm crazy, but when I have Karsten Creek at my feet, it really is amazing how happy I feel.
“There’s not really anything I haven’t liked. I feel like I’ve really embraced America.”
After she graduates in December, she plans to play golf in Australia for a few months and then return to America, where she wants to golf professionally.
Panos said she wants to be involved with sports in whatever career she ends up choosing.
“I would love to play professional golf, for the rest of my life,” Panos said. “But if that plan halfway gets obscured or something, I would like to either market sporting goods or be like a sales rep or anything to do with golf or sports.”
Before she can focus on her future, Panos has a Big 12 Championship and NCAA competition approaching.
Oklahoma State coach Courtney Jones said she’s excited to watch a newly mature Panos in her final postseason with the Cowgirls.
“As a golfer, you’re always bottling up experience, and you’ve got to go through some of the difficult things to be able to put things in perspective a little bit,” Jones said. “She’s doing a really nice job of that now, so I just expect her to continue to do what she’s doing and thrive.”
Panos said she wants to use her years of experience to succeed in her last postseason.
“I feel like it’s just time to have one good run at it,” Panos said. “I’m a senior, not saying I’ve been there done that, but I’ve had all the opportunities to learn and to use my experiences and to go onto postseason.
“I have everything I could possibly need or possibly want to succeed, I just need to put my abilities to work.”