Chasing my dreams one shot at a time
Okay, it is finally happening- that LPGA card in my wallet is being put to real use! Since blogging about my trip to Hawaii, I have played two more LPGA events and have four more lined up!
Now that we are into the part of the tour schedule with twelve consecutive tournaments (including two majors), many of the top players are picking and choosing events to skip to give themselves a break. This leaves room for players further down the priority list like myself to step in and play.
I kicked off this long stretch with a stop in Greenwood, SC for a Symetra Tour event. It was good to get another tournament under my belt before teeing it up on the LPGA again. My game was rough that week- I could not find the center of the club face and scoring conditions were difficult on the bumpy greens. However, it helped me to know exactly where to focus my attention when I started preparing for Williamsburg.
Next step was driving the eight hours north from Greenwood to Williamsburg, VA for the LPGA Kingsmill Championship. What a phenomenal event this was. The River Course at Kingsmill Resort is a fantastic design and had some of the purest bent grass greens I have played in a long time. Nothing makes this golfer's heart happier than seeing a true roll, and Kingsmill provided nothing less than perfection.
I shot 73-72 (+3) and missed the cut by 3. Despite the MC, I left the tournament feeling incredibly optimistic. My ball striking was back to the solid form it had been showing over the past month, I converted eight birdies in 36 holes, and most importantly, it was another week of getting comfortable inside the LPGA ropes. Three double bogeys in two days kept me from playing the weekend, but I really felt more energized than discouraged moving forward.
The next tour stop was the LPGA Volvik Championship last weekend in Ann Arbor, MI. I realized during my practice round on Tuesday that Travis Pointe reminded me of Battle Creek CC, the nearby site of my 2015 Symetra Tour victory. There is just something about Michigan golf that agrees with me. The bent grass and tight, tree-lined design is just like being back on my home fairways of Hillcrest CC in Boise.
My ball striking remained solid last week, and I took advantage of many close iron shots to make fifteen birdies in four days. I shot 69-74-70-74 to finish T-65th and earn my first LPGA check :) I was particularly happy with the fact I didn’t make any doubles, a major improvement from the week prior. I also had some great up and down saves that I am replaying on a loop in my mind.
Last week was a solid step in the right direction for me. I felt in control of my game and my scoring again, and not just comfortable but confident inside the ropes. Focus on distance control and the slow but steady effects of long-term short game improvement is starting to pay off.
I often play my best when I am in the rhythm of playing events week in and week out. So, while six or seven straight is a long haul, I am happy to finally be hitting stride for the first time in 2017. This is where I am particularly grateful for my four years of experience on the Symetra Tour- I already know how to manage myself throughout the week so as to keep my energy level steady and performance high on the weekends.
My next four weeks on the LPGA are: Atlantic City, NJ; Cambridge, Ontario; US Open Quali in MI; Grand Rapids, MI; and Rogers, AR. We will see how things shake out after that!
I’d like to give a huge thank you to all of the host families who have taken me in over the past month. I have been slacking on taking pictures along the way, but to the Childers/Gattis, Arzbergers, Kelly Carda, the Hogges, the Paolinis, and the Lindstroms: THANK YOU! The generous hospitality and encouragement from these old and new friends means the world as I travel from place to place.
I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Thank you all for following along!
It is time to give you all the scoop on my LPGA debut!
I arrived in Hawaii Saturday afternoon and was greeted warmly by my host family, Bob and Judi Allen. Bob and Judi hosted me last summer at their other home in Morgan Hill, CA when I was an alternate for the US Women’s Open. It was great to be with familiar faces right on property at Ko Olina. I couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
Sunday morning was dedicated to watching the Masters. If you thought Sergio’s victory was exciting, try watching it in the company of several Spaniards. That was a Masters I will never forget.
The first tee was wide open when I wanted to start my practice round Sunday afternoon, so I teed off alone with Larry. As we were walking down the fairway, another caddy ran up to ask if his player could join. We said yes, and to my surprise, his player was Cristie Kerr. I spent the next nine holes listening intently to her talk with her caddie (and sometimes me) about the course conditions and her strategy for every possible shot. Five days later, Cristie went on a birdie barrage to shoot 62-66 on the weekend and win the tournament- her 19th career LPGA victory. In her post-round interview, she mentioned trying to stay out of her own way while she was lighting up the final nine holes. This was also the advice she gave me during our practice round: just stay out of your own way and let yourself play golf like you know how. If a twenty year veteran is still working on the same thing she recommends to rookies, I think that’s a good sign I should be patient with the learning curve out here.
My first round tee time was late morning. I slept well and didn’t feel jitters on the first tee shot. My adrenaline came as we walked down the first fairway and the realization it was finally go-time sunk in. I could feel my heart rate quicken and hands shake slightly on the first three holes. I love this rush; it is one of the reasons I became a professional athlete. I think the adrenaline actually helped me to start off -1 through the first eight holes because it has a way of making me focus more acutely on what is immediately in front of me.
I had been struggling with my swing over the previous few rounds, and things unraveled halfway through the day. I was missing fairways and missing greens and not saving myself with scrambling. The final number was 77. I tried to dig the secret out of the dirt on the range after the round but didn’t make any progress until reviewing old swing notes at home later that evening. With one key in mind for round two, I hit the ball more solid and was cruising along at even par through seven holes. On the eighth tee, I rushed my shot selection and didn’t back off despite doubting the club in my hand. I put one in the water and walked away with a triple. I held myself together just fine after that (despite knowing I had zero chance at making the cut) until our group began rushing to try to finish before sunset. I made bogey then double before we got stopped on the 17th green. My mistakes on account of rushing are textbook examples of getting in my own way. Lesson learned.
The next day, our group came back to finish the round at 7:45 AM. My playing partner Lindy Duncan was at even par, one shot outside the cut line. She barely lipped out her birdie chance on 17 green. Facing the difficult par-4 18th hole knowing she needed a birdie to play the weekend, Lindy HOLED OUT her 6-iron from the fairway for eagle. It was epic!
I felt very at ease all week. Except for everything being a few notches nicer (as 10x the sponsorship money will allow), the bones of the tournament were just like the Symetra Tour. I was used to all of the little details- from practice round regulations to yardage books to registration- but greatly appreciated the added perks like a locker stocked with ProV1s and generous player dining.
One thing is for sure: if I’m going to miss a cut, Hawaii isn’t a bad place to do it. Until my weekend opened up, I hadn’t even left the Ko Olina property. I made the best of the two days by exploring the island with friends.
In between my last blog and the trip to Hawaii, I played two Monday qualifiers and one Symetra event in Mesa. You’d never guess from the scores, but there have been a lot of positive things going on in my game. I’ve gained distance with my driver, my chipping has continued to improve, and I’m really comfortable over my putter right now. My ball striking has just been inconsistent, and I have had trouble putting everything together at once. However, I have seen some great progress during this last week at home and am optimistic moving forward.
…and speaking of forward, here’s what is up next: I am currently second alternate for the LPGA event in Dallas this coming week. I will play the Monday Qualifier there to try to guarantee myself a spot in the field. Regardless, I will wait around through Thursday in case anyone withdraws. Cross your fingers!
I am not even going to bother trying to provide a schedule past Dallas because it is all very much up in the air. If you are ever curious as to whether I am playing a specific event, feel free to reach out and I'll give you my best estimate.
Thank you all for following along!
After all the excitement of earning my LPGA Tour card in December, my life has turned upside down. The last few months have been nothing but private jets and publicity ops. Or… maybe not quite. Come to think of it, 2017 hasn’t looked a whole lot different than my previous four years as a pro. I have been busy practicing and preparing as usual, trusting that the processes that got me this far will lead to success at the next stage, too.
I have had one road stint so far this year. The trip was kicked off with LPGA Rookie Orientation in Daytona Beach, FL. I learned the intricate ins-and-outs of the LPGA, got to know fellow rookies, and met staff members. Really, though, the two and a half days of education could all have been summed up in one lesson: 101 Ways To Get Fined on Tour.
Since orientation had already brought me all the way to Florida, I decided I might as well make the short trip from there down to the Bahamas for the year’s first LPGA event. I attempted to Monday qualify because my status did not earn me a position in the limited field. The Monday round was a wild one- I made six birdies, three doubles, and four bogeys in 30-40 mph winds to miss qualifying by six shots. This was fairly typical of early season play for me, some positives mixed in with a mess of rusty mistakes. As always, though, the tournament provided solid experience to file away for next time.
With seven days to kill in Florida before I flew out of the Fort Lauderdale Airport again, I migrated over to Naples, FL for the week. There I was graciously welcomed into the winter homes of my Rochester, NY host family the Parkers and then their fellow Rochester friends, the Lines. As I’ve said before, host families are what make tour life special for me. I'd like to give a huge thank you shoutout to Jamie and Mary Ann Parker and Rick and Judy Lines for treating me to an incredible week of practice, good wine, and ocean views!
My fourth and final stop was the Caribbean island of Tobago. Monifa Sealy, a member of the Symetra Tour, hosted a pro-am in her home nation to raise money for local junior golf programs. Forty female professionals played for our own purse alongside amateurs from Trinidad and Tobago. There were a few wrinkles in the operations of the first-time event, but overall it was an amazing time experiencing a corner of the world we might have never otherwise visited. Highlights included a glass-bottomed boat tour of coral reefs, some gorgeous golf holes along the ocean, and a ride around the island.
I arrived back in Phoenix February 7th, and I started answering daily to the question, “So when are you leaving?” on February 8th. You will find my upcoming schedule below. I am just barely on the outside looking in for the Phoenix and San Diego LPGA events, but I should be playing in Hawaii! After that, I expect to be playing a good amount of LPGA domestic events. I will give a better idea of my post-April schedule when I know it.
I shot 73-67-72 to finish 3rd at the last Cactus Tour event. I still find these local tournaments to be incredibly useful for getting (bigger) tournament ready. You can follow those scores here.
My major project of the last few months has been securing the financial support necessary to tee it up on the LPGA Tour. As you might imagine, this is an expensive endeavor. I have thus far reached about 60% of my goal for the year. If you or your company are interested in partnering, I would love to hear from you.
Here are my new sponsors for the upcoming season:
TR Toppers is the leading candy toppings supplier in the United States. If, for example, you have enjoyed chopped Reeses Pieces or brownie bites at a frozen yogurt shop, you most likely have TR Toppers to thank for that!
Snake River Farms is an Idaho family owned and operated business dedicated to producing the highest quality beef and pork in the country. Hungry for some American wagyu filet mignon? Or perhaps some Korbuta pork belly? Snake River Farms will deliver their incredible products directly to your doorstep. Use the code LPGA17 at checkout for free shipping on your first order.
The John and Carol Hepworth family are also partners. They are being represented on my bag with the simple letters “H.F.M.M.”, a personal reminder of their goal for me this season.
Thank you all for reading and following along. I'm looking forward to sharing more as this season really gets started.
An inside look at my journey in professional golf
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