I started playing golf when I was seven or eight years old. Since then, I always knew I wanted to be a professional golfer. I figured I would try it, play for four or five years and then start my real life. To this day, I have no recollection of what I thought my real life would actually look like. None at all. When I came up with this stellar plan, there were two things I had no idea of yet. The first is how much I would love playing on the LPGA tour. And the second is how thankful I would be after all of it. Golf has opened so many doors for me to be able to live this (unexpected) dream for almost 30 years now.
In 1984, I qualified for the 32nd annual Women’s U.S. Open and got my first taste of professional golf. Free food in the locker room, new Titleist balls in my locker, and people asking for my autograph. Best of all, I was given the opportunity to walk inside the ropes with some amazing women to whom I had admired for some time.
Nancy Lopez broke my heart that week when she moved the cut from +13 to +12 by playing the last five holes in even par, a feat everyone assured me, was impossible. I missed the cut by one lousy shot and decided I wanted this life because along with the shattered dream was the elation of the possibilities. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Nancy Lopez would become a good a friend.
This picture of me was used for the cover of the Golf for Women Magazine in 1997
When I look back on my years of playing professional golf, the things I remember most are the people I’ve met along the way, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I’ve had and the many, beautiful places golf has taken me. All of it, the friendships, the experiences, the highs and lows, happened because I hit a little white ball around a golf course for a living.
The funny thing is that most people who love golf wish they could play professionally. I’ve met celebrities and top CEOs who (think they) want my life. Many have become good friends. I hope they would have liked me just as much whether I play golf or not, but the point is, I never would have met them if not for that little white ball.
I remember being asked early on in my career if I would mind playing my practice round with Sylvester Stallone. In my mind I was thinking, “Ha! Really? Me, mind? Oh, you’re serious?” I remember replying calmly, “Sure, I can do that…. for him.” It really was laughable. Little Miss Nobody from South Dakota doing Sly a favor. Turned out he didn’t particularly like getting out driven by a girl. You’d have though since he was at an LPGA pro-am he could have accepted that possibility. The next day I had to laugh when he got paired with Michelle McGann.
Golf has given me court-side seats for NBA games, front row seats at concerts, back stage passes, tickets to see New York City Ballet, Oprah, David Letterman… I could go on but I’ll finish with one of my favorites – sitting in the 12th row at the Academy Awards!
I am thankful for all of this.
The ticket that got me into the 64th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, CA
Currently, I play on the Legends tour and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue playing golf at a competitive level. Although, I’ll never be ready to give up playing completely, I had been thinking about what my next passion would be. How will I give back to the game that has given me so much in the past three decades?
About a month ago I got a phone call asking if I’d be interested in a full time job working with a hot, golf-tech company in San Francisco called 18Birdies. Then, to make things more interesting they asked if I’d take on the role as Director of Community Relations, which meant building a charitable giving program within the company. The cherry on top was when they said I’d able to keep playing golf. I think my exact response was, “Hell yes! I’m in!”
As the Director of Community Relations at 18Birdies I am honored to help to develop a program dedicated to giving back to the game of golf. Furthermore, I get to tell everyone about 18Birdies! I’d love if you’d join our community by downloading our first product, which is available on both iOS and Android. There is so much to come, but I will save it for the next post. Stay tuned as I share our progress and my journey as part of the 18Birdies Family.
A picture taken after doing a YMCA Fundraiser clinic with Dan Boever