In sports, it seems that youth is often put on a pedestal. We praise and share the stories of the youngest to win a tournament, youngest to qualify for the LPGA, or youngest to make a professional debut. For good reason, it’s pretty remarkable when athletes with limited experience conquer such large feats.
As a kid, I always dreamed I’d break one of those records, chasing time like it was a target on my back. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder if it’s the healthiest thing for young people just learning how to navigate the world. In most individual sports, it’s the norm to capitalize on your talent while the iron’s hot. Tennis players go straight from homeschooled high school to the world tour, swimmers forgo their college experience to participate in two-a-day training with eyes on the Olympics and college golfers often head to Q-School during their senior season in hopes to kick-start their career following graduation.
I admire those who are willing to turn the tide and go against the grain. Virginia Elena Carta had no problem doing just that. After an All-American career at Duke which included an NCAA Team and Individual Championship, the Italian stand-out was not ready to turn the page on her amateur status or close her academic books.
“I definitely wanted to close the studying cycle and it was very likely I’d get a master's degree or Ph.D.,” said Carta. “My family always pushed hard for me to have a good and solid academic background and to have a plan B for my life.”
After going through the application process for scholarships and universities, she was accepted into The University of Cambridge to pursue her MPhil in environmental policies. While there, she continued to make history. Carta became the fourth woman to be a part of the Cambridge and Oxford Golf Society. “The Society” is one of the oldest golf societies in the world dating back to 1898. Carta etched her name in their history books playing a whole season with the men of the Cambridge Blues Golf Team - an experience drastically different than the U.S.
“We left Cambridge every weekend at four in the morning on Saturday and played 36 holes on Saturday and 36 holes at a different course on Sunday,” spoke Carta of her time on the Cambridge men’s team.
After completing her Mphil, she began to prepare for the dream she always planned on chasing - the LPGA Tour.
In 2021, the former Blue Devil attended each stage of LPGA Qualifying School, but a tough week on the putting greens kept her away from her card for 2022.
Carta headed back to Europe where she had full status on the Ladies European Tour. Her goal was to earn an exemption into this year's Q-School through her play on the LET. Playing her way into the top 400 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings earned her a spot in this week's field at Plantation Golf Club.
“It really helped to get one extra year off of academic life and provided an easier path to professional golf,” said Carta. “I was able to train with my coaches and it gave me the time to mature as a player and person.”
This week, she plans to lean on her playing experience all over the globe. Carta’s visit to Venice, Fla. marks the fifth continent she’s played in this year. However, she hopes an LPGA card will help consolidate her schedule next year.
“The goal this week is to get to Q-Series and then to earn my LPGA status there,” Carta explained.
If she can graduate from Q-School this year, that will be a journey of a thousand miles through four “schools” in six years. At the age of 25, she’ll walk away with a bachelor's degree, an MPhil, a LET Card, and an LPGA Tour card. How about that for a series of accomplishments at such a young age?