Every professional has a story of how they made it to their respective tours. Whether it is the Epson Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, LPGA Tour, or PGA TOUR, every one of those professionals had a unique experience of how they made it there and the unique challenges they had overcome. Being on the road, battling through injury, mental fatigue, the list goes on and on.
If you have played the game of golf long enough, you know the rollercoaster of emotions that you can have round-to-round and shot-to-shot. Now when you are playing professional golf, those shots and those rounds can dictate how much money you make that year, but more importantly, they can decide your status for the following year. The mental wear and tear it can take on an athlete is immense, but finding ways to cope with it is just as important as playing well. We asked three Epson Tour Athletes with three different stories how they made it to this point and how they keep a positive mindset even when things may not go their way.
Sarah White succeeded early in her career, winning her first career start on the Epson Tour at the 2020 Founders Tribute at Longbow Golf Club. White earned her start by finishing in the top 5 at a WAPT event, the 2020 Texarkana Children Charities Open, which gave her an exemption into the tournament at Longbow.
"I honestly didn't expect to win," said White. "I went in saying to myself, 'Wow, I really hope I make the cut,' and then I ended up winning."
White has a different experience than most players on the Epson Tour, never having to experience the "tour life" before claiming her first win.
"I was not in the tour mode before that event. To me, it was just another tournament. Now after a few years on tour, I feel like I have been thrown into it," explains White. "Your first two years out on tour are the hardest. You're in a new environment, you're seeing golf courses that you have never seen before, and you're learning how to manage your travel when you're on the road for more than half the year."
Since her first win on the Epson Tour in 2020, White has yet to find that second win of her career but has put up several strong finishes. The game is there for the Michigan native, winning the 2022 Michigan PGA Women's Open by firing a 9-under final round. Right now, White is focused on small wins and what she and her best friend on the Epson Tour, Daniela Iacobelli, call their 'Sparkle Shots.'
"A sparkle shot is a shot you thought you hit well, an impossible lie that you got the ball onto the green, or even a personal goal like hitting a green you don't normally hit. Just a shot that made you feel good while you were on the course," explains White. "Any week you can think you play really well, but your score doesn't reflect that, but you have to have the acceptance of 'I still played well.' You have to find small wins out there because if you don't, it is going to get sad and lonely fast."
Roberta Liti is an LPGA Tour/Epson Tour dual member for the 2023 season for the first time in her career. Since 2019, Liti has been playing exclusively on the Epson Tour, recording five top-10 finishes, two of which were early in the 2023 season. In addition, Liti has yet to miss a cut on the Epson Tour in 2023, contributing much of her success to her improved mindset.
"I feel like I am in a very good place compared to last year. It has made a huge step in my career, working with my coach and improving my game," said Liti. "The mental aspect when you get to this level is 70% of it. You are always faced with new situations and new challenges in golf. The switch from Epson and LPGA is a big switch. The mental game is always a process. I realize I am learning about myself and my mental game every week."
The Epson Tour has significantly raised purses, with the winner of this week's event (Inova Mission Inn Resort and Golf Club Championship) taking home $11,250 more than the 2020 champion. Despite the increases, golf is a results-driven game regardless of what tour you play on. An athlete's income can change year to year and add extra stress when they may not know exactly how much they will get.
"It can be the hardest part of this job. You can be working hard every day, and you have no money to show for your work," explains Liti. "The stress of not knowing your income is so stressful. It is hard to do what you need to do on a daily basis thinking about that, but it is something you have to put aside and focus on the task at hand, which is playing good golf."
Players at this level are always thinking about their game and what the future holds for them. It is just as crucial to Liti, who she is off the course, compared to the person on it.
"Our life is about what we do on the golf course, but it is important to find distractions outside of golf," said Liti. "When you find ways to switch off the golf mind, it saves you so much energy and puts you in a good place on and off the course. A number on a scorecard doesn't define you as a person."
Dorsey Addicks first earned Epson Tour status in 2018 but did not start playing full-season schedules until 2021. At the end of the 2022 season, Addicks recorded her first top-10 finish at the Epson Tour Championship, highlighted by a career-best 63 (-9) in the final round. It has been a complicated start to Addicks's career, only getting limited starts before COVID and finally getting into the swing of the tour a little later than she hoped.
"This is going to be my third full season out here," said Addicks. "It's tough because it is my third full year, but I am already six seasons in. You are saying to yourself, 'I feel like I should be further along than this,' so mentally for me, that has been tricky to deal with."
Since playing full-time in 2021, Addicks is quickly learning that it is not the physical fatigue she needs to work on but the mental fatigue.
"To me, the physical part of sports isn't the hard part; it is the mental fatigue that catches up with you first," said Addicks. "Mentally, your brain is going all day for a four-week stretch sometimes, so for me, it has been more 'how do I stay sharp' and 'how do I stay fresh' to make sure I'm having fun because 22 weeks of the year you are grinding it out. Not only for your profession that year but for the next year as well."
The Montana native knows how hard it can be to stay positive during a round and how others may view you based on how well you play. To Addicks, though, it is important for her to separate herself from who she is when she is at the golf course and not let it define her.
"You define yourself by how you play and how you finish. Everyone else around you defines you kind of that way, too," said Addicks. "The biggest thing for me is to remind myself that 'I am Dorsey Addicks, the golfer, but I am also Dorsey Addicks, the person,' and those two shouldn't blend when I walk off the course. I have a life to live, and I want to make sure I am having fun off of the golf course because it makes being out here so much more enjoyable."