2018 taught me some of the most harsh and difficult lessons I’ve learnt in my life.
It was also one of the best and most rewarding years too.
I started college in January at the University of Southern California. A school renowned for its golfing pedigree and studying here on a 4-year golf scholarship is the sort of thing dreams are made of.
From my dorm room I can see downtown L.A.
Every morning I start practice at 0630, train for 4 hours then head off to study, all the while inching closer to my long-held dream of becoming a professional golfer and playing on the LPGA.
Just before returning home for my summer holidays we made the semi-finals at the National tournament in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Life couldn’t get much better.
Then, as I was relaxing on the couch and telling mum about how great things were going, completely out of the blue, I received a message to say my coach, the legendary Andrea Gaston, had resigned.
Just like the rest of the girls in my team I was completely blown away.
She’d been the Head Coach of USC for 25 years, her teams made nationals for nearly all of those years and were consistently in the top 5 ranked schools in the US. She was one of the key reasons I went to USC.
It turned out she was offered an opportunity just down the road from her home at a college that was struggling, and this was a great chance for her to rebuild them.
I completely understand and respect her decision. That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with how that affected me both then and in the coming months.
For the next few weeks before a replacement was appointed, texts flew back and forth between me and the other girls on the team, speculating on who it might be.
Justin Silverstein was announced as the new Head Coach just before my summer holiday was over. He was the Assistant on the men’s programme, so I’d seen him around practice and campus a bit, so knew who he was, and I felt OK about the decision.
Then change happened.
Justin completely changed our practice schedule.
We were all scared and didn’t really understand the need for the change. Things had been working before, so we weren’t sure of how things would work out.
I remember having to sit myself down and say this could all work out and make me a better golfer. It’ll only harm me if I let it, so I needed to keep an open mind and stay positive both towards golf and to school.
Three more girls arrived to start the next semester, our team was now 10 instead of the 7 it had been. Meaning with only 5 spots available on the team at each tournament it was going to be harder to make the team.
Initially I wasn’t too concerned as I’d made every team the previous semester, but when one of the new girls earned a spot by qualifying the team for the next competition, obviously one of the originals had to be cut from the team.
That one was me.
This was a HUGE shock.
To top it off the team performed the best we had all year. Without me. That was really hard to take and challenged me mentally like I’d never been challenged before.
I had all sorts of thoughts running through my head.
Was I good enough? Was I not? Was I going to make the tournament team again?
I questioned everything.
I had made my first Canterbury Women’s team when I was 12 so this feeling of not being selected was really foreign to me.
I’d never really had to deal with failure before. And I hated it. It was an unbelievably uncomfortable feeling. But on the flip side it taught me a lot about myself that I never knew.
I spent countless hours on the phone back home to mum and dad and continued to work hard on my game.
What I came to realise was that missing out on selection wasn’t failure and nor was it finite either. All it meant was the standard of golf was ridiculously high and if I wanted to be the best, I’d have to beat the best. Our team is currently the No1 ranked college team in the US, so just to be on the team is a privilege and says something about me.
I never thought about it when I was younger because golf was never at the Olympics. But when I saw it announced I just knew that was where I wanted to be.
Hardly anyone can say they’re an Olympian, so to have that chance to maybe compete at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 and possibly beside Lydia Ko, that would be an unreal feeling and one I definitely want to tick off – just thinking about it makes me excited.
Our games are quite different, but I am in awe of what she’s done for the game in New Zealand.
I grew up playing with a lot of men, so my game is a bit different; like hit it as far as you can and then go from there, where hers is a lot more refined and measured. So, it’s not so much her golf game that I’m in awe of but just everything else. How she deals with the media, how she represents herself. She’s such a nice girl you can talk to her whenever.
Just to know a young women can make it from New Zealand.