CLEVELAND – Three identical, hollow stars are inked into the inside of Breanna Elliott’s right wrist – one each for Elliott and her two best girlfriends back home in Melbourne, Australia.
Elliott, now 20, has had them since she was 18, and can still remember the night she decided to visit the tattoo parlor. She was waiting with her friends to find out what college they had been accepted into. Her life, meanwhile, would go in a different direction.
Two years later, Elliott is finally ready to pursue a professional career after months spent learning the nomadic life of a tour player. Elliott has been on and off the Australian national team for most of it, traveling the world to find the best amateur events. Her game is peaking now, evidenced by last week’s victory at the Women’s Trans Mississippi Amateur, so it’s time to go to LPGA Q-School.
“This year has been the best year to date,” said Elliott, who took up the game at 14. “There’s no point in sort of waiting.”
Elliott says she always has been passionate about sports and her parents have supported it, even if it did mean no college. As a youngster, she played tennis and net ball (best described as a sport similar to basketball) but eventually narrowed her focus to golf. Elliott’s dad Tony is a teaching professional at Yarrawonga and Border Golf Club back home in Melbourne. She guesses that helped her parents get behind her decision to become a professional athlete.
“Straight up I knew I wanted to turn pro,” said Elliott, who has spent the past year and a half working on a higher ball flight with her coaches to prepare for American golf. It’s a different environment here than on the windy southeast Australian coast.
Elliott is one of six Australian players in the field at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and is second-highest on the stroke-play leaderboard (T-14). She is one of only four who are on the Australian national squad, a distinguished title as the Aussies ramp up a national program that had players roaming the U.S. for the better part of the summer, playing in the top amateur events. When Minjee Lee, another national team member, won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in July, she became only the eighth Australian to claim a USGA championship. Tough to think that number won’t boom in the near future.
“Before coming over here this season, I was like, we don’t have a lot of players, not a lot of depth in our players,” Elliott said. “But the girls that we have this trip, we may not have many but the ones we do have are really good. I think we’re definitely doing something right back home in all our programs.”
Elliott’s trans-continental trip began with the U.S. Women’s Open. She wasn’t in the field, but courtesy of a one-two finish in the Australian Women’s Open Ranking last season (an Australian golf season runs from November to May), she and teammate Whitney Hillier got to spend the week boarding with Karrie Webb. Not many people know it, Elliott explains, but Webb plays a huge role in the next generation of Aussie players. She offers that opportunity, plus a $10,000 travel scholarship, to the top two female amateurs each year.
“Being there and watching it makes you really hungry for it,” Elliott said of the Women’s Open. Aside from leading the Australian rankings, she also is ranked No. 9 in the World Amateur Rankings.
The Australian federation has played a big role in steering Elliott’s career. Coaches have found the happy medium of presenting opportunities but letting players decide how to best take advantage of them. Last summer, Elliott’s coaches helped her build a competition schedule of the top events. This year, Elliott was left in charge of finding events, filling out the applications and figuring out the logistics. Coach Matt Cleverdone is looping for Elliott this week.
“These days they want us to sort that stuff out ourselves,” she said. “It’s a little bit more stressful, but I think it’s good.”
So Elliott ended up at the North & South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C., where she lost to Jaye Marie Green in the Round of 16. The next week was the Trans – mostly because it was just a short drive to Elgin, S.C. – and now the U.S. Women’s Am. Elliott arrived in Cleveland after a week spent in The Woodlands, Texas, with a handful of other Australian players. That week provides a chance for players and coaches to meet up, catch up and rest up. The doors also are opened to Aussie pros.
Up next is the first stage of Q-School, and if all goes according to plan, she’ll have time to represent her country at the World Team Amateur, to be played in Antalya, Turkey, on Sept. 27-30. The Australians have yet to name a three-woman squad for that week, but the event fits nicely between the second and first stages of Q-School. Fingers crossed, Elliott left a hole in her calendar.
It would be a fitting way to close this chapter of her life before moving to the next.