Everyone always asks me about those historic moments — the ones about being the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women's Amateur and U.S. Women's Open.
When you're 10 or 11 years old, you obviously don't grasp the full magnitude of it. In my mind, I was just a regular girl who enjoyed playing golf. I loved being out on the golf course, competing, and traveling with my family — that's it.
Looking back on it now, sure, I'm proud of those accomplishments. But I'm probably even prouder that I managed to stay in the moment after.
I think it can be quite easy to let success like that go to your head, especially at a young age. Fortunately, I had a good environment that allowed me to grow on my own timeline and not pursue something that I wasn't ready for.
Sure, the dream was certainly to become a professional golfer one day. But it had to happen when I was ready and on my own terms.
Before turning pro
The years after those two big accomplishments at age 10 and 11 were pretty defining ones. I think I did a good job of leaning into my heart and pursuing a path that felt right for me. So, I never really put together a timeline about when to actually turn pro.
In the meantime, I did what I did best — I just enjoyed playing.
I particularly loved competing in team events.
The Junior Ryder Cup, the Junior Solheim Cup and especially the Curtis Cup were all team competitions that I'll never forget. In fact, winning the Curtis Cup with Team USA in 2018 at age 15 is arguably among my proudest achievements.
I think those team competitions were exactly what I needed to get ready for the professional tour.
The tough transition
And then, in 2019, I thought I finally was ready, and declared 2020 to be my rookie year on The Epson Tour.
But the transition from junior golf to professional golf wasn’t easy. The COVID year threw curveballs into everything, including my rookie year. It did, however, come with a silver lining, at least in my case.
I always wanted to earn my degree. I had plans to start taking online courses at University of Pennsylvania all along, but because so many events were cancelled in 2020, I was able to accelerate a lot of my coursework.
The few events I did get to compete in, I actually played quite well.
I finished eighth on the money list at the end of the season.
Because of COVID, only five players earned their LPGA status that year, so I barely missed out. It was obviously disappointing to run into a career speedbump like that, but it was a difficult time for everyone, and I just felt fortunate to be able to play golf and follow my dreams.
With a solid rookie year behind me, I was looking forward to another one in 2021. Unfortunately, I couldn’t transfer my good form into 2021, and I had to deal with some struggles in my game.
At the end of the year, it was hard to keep my spirits up and not feel weighed down by disappointment.
There were still some bright spots, though, including a T-16 at the U.S. Women’s Open and a T-13 at the MediHeal LPGA Tour event, which were my best LPGA finishes at the time.
So, instead of getting down on myself, I tried to focus on those positives.
It took a lot of mental work to fight through those battles, but I managed to transform my mindset into one of optimism and eventually came out the other side stronger.
Reframing my game
I started trusting my game again and regained that confidence.
And I believe it finally all came together this year. Being the first Epson Tour player to lock up my LPGA Tour card for 2023 was a huge milestone in my career.
Without a doubt, it's a dream come true.
When I start this new chapter, I try to keep the same mindset. Sure, I have some goals I'd love to go after. But I won't have any sort of expectations and will just focus on enjoying myself.
I can't wait.