The LPGA. It’s the gold standard for professional women’s golf, where elite players compete on a global stage. It’s the place where you have to be better than good to (literally) make the cut, week after week. Where scores that win tournaments elsewhere aren’t even in the hunt here. The players are that good.
So, what does it feel like to be an LPGA Tour rookie? What’s so different about this playing experience?
We decided to find out from Maddie McCrary, the 22-year-old, former Oklahoma State University standout who knows firsthand what it’s like to be “the new kid on the block.” She is about six months into her professional career, fully exempt on the Symetra Tour, with conditional status on the LPGA. She turned pro just before her last semester of college.
This week, she’s competing in her second LPGA event, the Volunteers of America® LPGA Texas Classic. The tournament tees back up at Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, on Friday, May 4th, after first round play was suspended due to inclement weather.
Transitioning From College Golf Wunderkind to LPGA Newbie
McCrary’s greatest challenge as a pro so far is pretty close to what any young adult experiences when she moves from college into real life—going from a structured environment that’s scheduled for her to one in which she calls the shots. The difference is, McCrary is traveling from tournament to tournament, time zone to time zone, then back home again. In a lot of ways, her schedule is continuously in the state of flux, depending on whether she qualifies or makes the cut.
“I think the biggest thing for me so far is just figuring out how to go about my week,” McCrary said. “I talk to my coach and my trainer about what works best for me. When do I conserve energy and use energy; when should I eat, what do I need to do to prepare to play my best golf.”
Although, in college, McCrary was known for staying at the short game range, every day, until she holed out a bunker shot; she’s not so much an anomaly on Tour.
“It is a lot more competitive out here—the players and the work ethic. You see girls on the putting green for hours and hours,” McCrary said. “Like me, they really want to do this for a living, they really want to win. You’ve got to really grind if you want it. You have to work harder than you’ve had to work before. “
A Tour Veteran’s Perspective
McCrary is clearly not afraid of the challenge—a quality that LPGA Tour veteran and 2016 U.S. Open champion Brittany Lang has noticed in many recent newcomers.
“I have played with a lot of the rookies this year, and it’s actually been kind of eye-opening for me. These rookies I have seen are so good, and they are so confident and fearless. They have things to teach me, as well,” Lang said.
When asked what advice she’d give these emerging players, Lang didn’t hesitate long.
“Honor who you are,” she said. “That goes from finding the right place to live, the right instructor, to having the right people around you. You really want to surround yourself with a positive team, because positivity will help you have a nice career out there. But, I always say, ‘Honor who you are,’ because I think that helps you really reach your potential.”
Competing at the LPGA Texas Classic’s New Venue
As for Maddie McCrary, she has intuitively taken Lang’s advice.
Rick Woodson, Jr., her coach since the age of six, is still her coach today–and also on her bag at this tournament. Because McCrary, like Lang, resides in the greater Dallas metroplex, she’s played Old American Golf Club before, something that Woodson considers a competitive advantage.
“Old American is unique. It’s more of a links-style course that is hard to duplicate if you’re not here,” Woodson said. “From tee to green, you can figure it out. It’s around the greens where you need to know what to miss and where to land the ball to make putts. I think that’s going to be a huge deal this week.”
Although severe weather threw a monkey wrench into the competition on Thursday, the course, itself, is primed for play.
“The fairways are beautiful. The folks at Old American have done a great job getting everything ready; the course is in great condition,” Woodson said.
But for McCrary, it’s more than this tournament, or this moment. It’s about having the opportunity to live her dream.
“The most amazing thing about turning pro is being able to actually realize my goal. To achieve something I’ve worked so hard for all of my life,” she said.
New venue. Brilliant golf. Incredibly skilled players. No question, the LPGA Texas Classic will be golf worth watching.
We can’t wait to see how this narrative will unfold.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to play professional golf? If you have questions for Maddie McCrary on what it’s like to be an LPGA rookie, just leave a comment below. You and your question could be featured in subsequent Purpose2Play articles.