The sports world may be on hold, but the careers of two women are moving forward, as Duke University senior Ana Belac (Portoroz, Slovenia) and University of Texas senior Emilee Hoffman (Sacramento, California) announced their decisions to turn professional this week and compete on the Epson Tour in 2020.
As recently as the morning of March 12, Belac and Hoffman were eagerly anticipating the final spring season of their collegiate career. By the end of that day, any thought of another birdie in their respective school colors was a memory.
“We were on our way to an event when we were told to turn around and two hours later the season is canceled,” said Belac. “I was definitely in denial for a couple of days, asking someone to wake me up from this dream.”
Hoffman echoed those sentiments.
“It was really difficult for my team and I to process that our season was over at first. We were having a great year and I think we were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time,” she added. “We felt like we had a good chance to perform well in the postseason so that was the hardest part.”
Between trying to balance an abrupt ending to illustrious careers and a new system of completing all courses online, they received news of a decision by the NCAA Division I Council granting waivers for every spring-sports athlete to receive an extra year of eligibility. With emotions astir, how does one go about deciding whether to stay or move on?
My childhood dream just became reality! I am excited to announce that I have officially turned professional, and will be teeing off on the @ROAD2LPGA when the season resumes!— Ana Belac (@belac_ana) April 1, 2020
Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way - I would not have been here without you 💙 pic.twitter.com/h6B0LjQ6Eo
For Belac, a year removed from leading Duke to its seventh NCAA Championship in school history, it was all about the repeat or an individual title.
“I talked to a lot of my fellow seniors about how [college athletics] is the end of their athletic career, and it put in perspective how lucky I am to be in this position,” Belac said. “I am glad I got to be part of one of the best teams and I will miss having them to travel and joke around with. Ultimately, I did not finish my college career like I wanted, but I know there is a lot more to come.”
As for Hoffman, she was a two-time All-Big 12 First Team selection for the Longhorns and ended fifth in UT history with a career stroke average of 73.34. Yet, she was still searching for a coveted national title.
“I talked it over with my family and coaches; my coach wanted me to return for a fifth year and I would have loved to go back, but since I already went to Q-School last year and secured status, we agreed that going pro was best for me at this time,” said Hoffman. “As the only senior on my team, I think it took a toll on me the most because I won’t have another chance to compete for a NCAA title.”
With each having successful collegiate careers, they now turn their focus to professional golf. Belac went tied for 61st at Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament last year and Hoffman finished tied for 92nd. Those results earned both players full Epson Tour membership as rookies for the 2020 campaign. But as limited opportunities to prepare await their immediate journey, they are making the best of what is available.
“My dream ever since I was little was to turn pro,” Belac said. “I came to realize that life does go on and I am trying to keep my focus on the future. I am lucky enough that a local golf course [Mill Creek] is letting me use their facilities during this time, as Duke University’s golf course and driving range are closed. It’s a 30-minute drive and I’m still taking classes. I’m just trying to do my best.”