Just six months ago, Nataliya Guseva competed for the University of Miami Hurricanes as a sophomore. Thursday morning, she teed off at Q-Series after breezing through both Stage I and II of Q-School in an impressive effort to reach the LPGA Tour.
“I was preparing for this for a long time, it was always my dream to play professional golf,” Guseva said after her opening round at Q-Series. “That’s why I left college when I was still a sophomore. I always wanted to be out here and play with the best.”
Though she has left the University of Miami behind her – she forfeited her eligibility when she entered Stage I – she’s still repping green and orange at Magnolia Grove Golf Course over 700 miles away from the school’s campus. She even brought her former coach, a four-time LPGA winner and the 1982 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year, Patti Rizzo with her to Mobile, Ala.
“It’s awesome (having her here),” Guseva said. “She was an awesome golfer. It’s very nice to get some advice, like whenever I’m nervous or feel pressure, because she went through this way. She was always like a mom to me, so I just feel great and very thankful for her.”
Guseva first donned the Hurricanes uniform in January 2021 as an early enrollee. Four months later, she became the first golfer in program history to win an individual conference honor when she secured the ACC Freshman of the Year title. She also shot the second lowest scoring average in program history (71.4) that season.
Having already accomplished so much at the collegiate level, it’s unsurprising that the 19-year-old decided to try her luck on a professional tour. She has received a ton of support in her journey through Q-School from both her coaches and friends.
“When I was going to University of Miami, I told (Patti) that I’m going to turn pro in a few years, I’m going to go to Q-School,” Guseva explained. “She was always supportive. It’s just nice when you’re surrounded by people who are supporting you turning pro.”
Guseva found success quickly at Q-School, just as she did at the University of Miami. She shot 8-under par in Stage I to finish T18 and qualify for Stage II. There she finished T33. The youngster has continued to carry her hot streak into the first round of Q-Series, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 66. Currently tied for sixth, Guseva is just three shots off the lead.
“I just enjoyed playing today,” Guseva said as she walked off the 18th green. “I wasn’t really rushing because I know it’s going to be a marathon of golf. So, I’m just enjoying playing here as a practice round because eight rounds of golf is a lot.”
At this point, Guseva has safely secured Epson Tour membership for the 2023 season, though her status remains undecided. But she will play on a professional tour next year. With that heavy load off her shoulders, Guseva can play a little freer and with a more relaxed mindset.
“For sure an LPGA Tour card would be great, but I’m just going to enjoy myself and not rush through the rounds,” Guseva said. “Just take it as it goes, just hit shot by shot.”
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, these next two weeks are all about proving she’s fit to play with the best in the world. And having some fun.