DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Emma Talley collects people everywhere she goes. Jennifer Shea and her husband Paul met Talley last summer when Talley was at their Massachusetts club for U.S. Women’s Open qualifying. The Sheas have been to six Symetra Tour events this season. Last Monday, they joined Talley at Disney World. Jennifer Shea played a video on her cell phone of Talley dancing in front of Cinderella’s Castle. That was before Talley earned her 2018 LPGA card at the Symetra Tour Championship.
“No one has more fun in life than Emma,” said Jennifer.
It’s not like Talley had her card secured heading into the season’s final event. The bubbly Talley was in fact the bubble girl, ranking 10th on the Symetra Tour money list. The top 10 money-earners clinch their cards.
Talley, a lover of challenges, embraced her bubble position and left no doubt where she belonged, finishing tied for second at LPGA International to move up to ninth on the money list. The 2015 NCAA champion and 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion closed with a 5-under 67 to finish one stroke behind winner Rachel Rohanna. Benyapa Niphatsophon (68) collected her seventh runner-up finish of the year, becoming the second Thai player to claim Symetra Tour Player of the Year honors. Her $124,492 is the second-highest total in tour history. Yu Liu (68), also took a share of second, joining Celine Boutier as Duke grads who earned their cards for 2018.
Rohanna shot 69-65-69 in the weather-shortened event and collected a $30,000 paycheck. She came up $2,509 short of a card, finishing 11th on the money list.
“I haven’t won in two years,” said Rohanna. “Just to get another win under my belt was just awesome to remember I still have it in me.”
The extremely social Talley became anti-social this week, staying off of twitter and Facebook and limiting her text messages.
“That’s not like me,” said Talley.
One text she did read Monday morning came from fellow Alabama star Justin Thomas, who wished her luck.
Earlier this year Talley reached out to Thomas. She’d been struggling with anxiety and wanted to ask fellow pros about working with a mental coach, something she’d never done. Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year, told Talley about his experience with Bob Rotella.
After speaking with a few Champions Tour players while out to dinner in Birmingham, Talley decided to pull the trigger and meet with Stan Beecham, an acquaintance of her father’s.
Weeks later she won for the first time on Symetra Tour.
“He kind of tore me down and built me up,” said Talley.
Late in the season in Garden City, Kan., Talley felt her anxiety shoot up when she realized there were only four weeks left in the season. She ranked seventh on the money list at the time.
“He made me say ‘I’m having a great season’ like a thousand times,” she said.
Talley finished third that week.
“I’m definitely believing in this sports psychology thing,” she said.
With her Kiwi boyfriend on the bag in Daytona Beach, a focused and calm Talley realized a dream. Her father, Dan, looked like he exhaled for the first time in a long time when she walked out of the scoring tent.
Also in the gallery was the father of a high school teammate from eight years ago back in Kentucky, who came out to support Princeton’s local star. Talley is a people person. She loves to walk down the fairways talking to people. Her biggest challenge going forward might be juggling all her fans.
“Every event I’ve gone to I hear people talk about an act of kindness that Emma did for someone,” said Shea.
Talley is a natural-born star. But can she be successful at the next level?
“She’s got the attitude to do it,” said longtime LPGA player Kristy McPherson as she waited to say congratulations.
Emma’s Army is about to explode.