Have you ever considered becoming a professional golfer? Here are the top 3 things I learned while playing golf at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that I applied to my Symetra tour season this year. Each of these were helpful in my path to earning my LPGA Tour card for 2016.
- Being self-sufficient is my go to answer as one of the most important things I learned in college and now apply to my professional golf career. I have to be able to handle new situations and the unknown as I travel, much like I did when I left home for college.
- Speaking specifically to golf I would say you must learn your swing and become the master of your swing. This includes the ins, the outs, your tendencies, your strengths, where you get your power, etc. and then be able to communicate this to others. As awkward as it was for me, my swing coach would have me tell others what we were working on in my swing – whether it was my college coach, my teammate, or a random person hitting balls next to me on the driving range. This allowed me to fully understand what we were working on and then allowed me to voice it so when my coach wasn’t there I knew ways to fix my swing.
- I played 24 tournaments this season and I had to rely on myself as I did not travel with a caddie or swing coach to most events. I had to reach back to what I learned in college about owning my game and then apply this on tour every week. Self sufficiency leads to confidence and college gave me time to grow in that confidence.
2. Have a Learner's Mindset
- I feel like I have heard the term learner’s mindset since I first picked up a golf club at the age of 12. I do not think I fully understood the meaning of this term until I started striving for a college scholarship and then during my time in college also. This is one of my swing coach’s favorite terms and it has become one of mine as well. It is so much more than just a term though; it is just what it says – a mindset you have to have to succeed at high levels in this game. It takes skill and hard work to earn a college scholarship, but then you have to learn to take it a step further and be open to new shots, new practice routines, new workout regimens, and ultimately new ways to become a better golfer. Look at all the different professional golfers on the PGA and the LPGA. No two are the same. There are many ways to be a great golfer and you have to be open to learning new techniques until you find what strategy works best for you. You have to be open to learning in general. This sport can never be mastered – there is always something to learn. When you believe that, you will gain strokes off the course before even teeing it up.
3. Practice with a Purpose
- I’m sure most competitive golfers have heard this concept before – quality is better than quantity. A few hours of solid practice can serve you better than spending all day at the course not committed to getting better. I learned in college to be fully committed during practice and I experienced the need to have purposeful practice at the highest level this past year. About half way through the season I started fighting a wrist injury. At this point during the year I had been playing well and knew that finishing in the top 10 and earning my LPGA card was within my reach if I finished strong. Lots of practice was doing more harm than good and it became a balance of saving as many swings for the tournament days as possible. Knowing how to have complete focus during the time I could practice allowed me to be just as successful at the end of the season as I was at the beginning.
College golf was a stepping stone that allowed me to learn these three tools that I continue to use while playing professionally. Keep these tips in mind when you are working towards your goals on and off the golf course!
My first memorable junior golf moment takes me back to June 2007 - the summer before my sophomore year of high school. This tournament was my 1st AJGA open event. I was so excited and I wanted my equipment to be in perfect condition for the week of the tournament so I had all of my clubs regripped the week before. On hole #1 - the rain comes – a torrential downpour that did not let up and quickly my new grips were soaked. I have never owned a pair of rain gloves at this point (that has changed) and I cannot hold onto my clubs AT ALL. In fact, the rain seemed to have caused an oily substance to seep out of the grips. I tried to grip down, hold the shaft, wrap a towel around the grip, not wear my glove, swing easy - nothing worked. My golf clubs sailed into trees, down the fairway, you name it – the clubs would not stay in my hands. Finally, I tap in on the 18th hole with a humbling 105 and my highest competitive round of golf - not how I pictured my first AJGA open event. The heavy rains caused the cancellation of the tournament the next day after 9 holes but I did come back and card a 40 for my last nine holes on a flooded course with new grips.
Lessons learned from this experience:
• Never take yourself and situations too seriously – learn to laugh :)
• Always be prepared
• Never, ever give up!
A second memorable moment shows a more positive side of my golf achievements. Not even a year later after the 105 debacle, my high school golf team qualified for the state tournament for the first time. In front of family and friends we are able to represent not only our high school but also our hometown at the Texas State Championship. My team posted a top 5 finish and I won the Texas 5A Girls State Championship as a sophomore. It was also my first time to ever shoot in the 60’s in a competitive event. I know that the perseverance I had to make it through the 105 and then get back to work played a major role in elevating my game to the next level. There were so many moments in junior golf that have shaped me into the golfer I am today. These memories were formed through both high and low moments but all of them include great friends, coaches and family – I am very thankful for my junior golf experience and I see how important the process and my response to those experiences have helped shape me into the golfer and person I am today.
College Golf Camps would have been a great opportunity for me had they been available. Connecting with college coaches was hard at first especially since I did not qualify for the bigger junior golf tournaments until the summer before my junior year of high school. Coaches want to see junior golfers play and through trial and error we learned ways that worked for our family. College golf camps give junior golfers today that connection and starting point without the trial and error. Having a way to network with over 18 different college coaches at one camp is a huge asset during those critical years. In addition, the ability to play with competitive female golfers from around the country and to assess and compare my current skills with theirs would have been a very useful and motivational tool for me as well.
As I write this blog, I am actually in Mesa, AZ preparing for my first two tournaments on the Symetra Tour. I will be competing in Arizona this week and California next week. I am very excited to get the season started! After these two events, I will be back home in Texas before the next swing of events in Florida during March. Follow along for results and more blogs to come in the future!