My Game for Life
August marks National Golf Month. Local golf pro Sam Wacha developed a love for the game at an early age with her father. With experience in playing Division I college golf and taking a journey with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Sam shares her experience and passion for golf.
What a dream job it might be to play a sport for a living. Better yet, what a dream to play GOLF for a living! While this is completely true, the road to accomplishing it is an incredibly challenging and rewarding process. I chased a career as a professional golfer for five years after graduating college, and this is how it all happened.
I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My dad was a football coach and the main reason I ever started playing golf in the first place. He wanted me to learn because "golf was a game I could play forever." I started with putting into little holes we made in a sandbox in the backyard and eventually graduated to hitting balls into the side of our house when I was about five. By the age of seven, I was playing nine-hole tournaments (while dabbling in some other sports as well). My parents always thought it was important to be a multiple sport athlete, so I always played basketball, volleyball, and ran track growing up. By the time I was in high school, I realized that I may be able to play golf in college, and my dad and I started sending a golf profile to every Division I school in the country. I got questionnaires back from some of the top schools. After receiving scholarship offers during my junior year from Colorado State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Wyoming, I chose to play Division I college golf at the University of Wyoming.
After four years of playing college golf and graduating with my bachelor's degree in communication, I had to decide what to do next. A lot of college athletes feel lost after sports are over, and I definitely knew I would be one of them. So, I decided I was going to take my shot at professional golf. I moved to the golf mecca of the USA, Phoenix, Arizona, home to nearly 200 golf courses. I got a job at a golf course, found the cheapest, smallest apartment I could, and moved by myself to pursue my dream.
One can take a couple of different avenues in women's golf to get to the LPGA Tour. The most common is qualifying through LPGA Qualifying School (Q School). Although this sounds like you will be sitting in a classroom, it is quite the opposite. Q School is made up of three stages (Stage I - Stage III), spanning over five months. Stage I is held in the same place every year in the desert of Rancho Mirage, California, in the middle of August. There are upwards of 300 of the top up and coming women golfers from all over the world that attend Stage I. Since it would be impossible to accommodate this many golfers on one golf course, competitors play three different courses instead. From there, it is regular tournament play into the following two stages, where the top 45 players earn their LPGA Tour Status at the end.
Most players that begin their journey to the LPGA have to go down some other paths as well. Mini tours are one of the most helpful and common ways that girls can hone in their games and play for a little money! If you remember having the APT & WAPT come to town back in July, this is what a mini tour looks like. Many of the players compete and travel full-time to chase that LPGA dream. In order to save on some of the costs of travel, many locations have host families that take in the golfers so they have a free place to stay during the tournament. Some of my favorite memories of playing are from staying with host families. I was able to travel and play all over the country, from California to Michigan to Texas. I even played in a tournament in Canada! Breaking even financially was difficult to do with this lifestyle, but it was the best feeling when I finally made my first check at a mini-tour event in Arizona.
Through my five years of chasing my LPGA dream, I learned more about myself and independence than I ever would have imagined. It was tough in the moment, but looking back, I am thankful for every opportunity and even made some of my best friends along the way. Now, instead of playing myself, I have found the same joy in helping adults and kids learn the game of golf. It seems to be increasingly popular, especially with women getting into the game! And the best part of all is that even though I may not be playing in professional events every week, I can continue to play, like my dad said, for the rest of my life.