Kassidy Teare has heard it all before. Long shot. Diamond in the rough. Sleeper.
She was the catcher-turned-golfer who showed up at Long Beach State in 2012 ready to work. Now those same monikers apply as Teare prepares for her rookie year on the LPGA.
“It doesn’t insult me,” she said of playing the underdog role. “It doesn’t scare me.”
As a four-year letter-winner in college golf, Teare is already an exception to the rule on the LPGA. Only 26 players in the top 100 of this year’s money list were four-year college players, 18 of whom were Americans.
Of the 42 players in the top 100 who played college golf, 18 competed for power schools such as Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Duke and Oklahoma State.
Teare doesn’t know a soul on the LPGA. There is no alumni system out there from Long Beach State. She’s it.
The 23-year-old from Vista, Calif., advanced through the final stage of LPGA Q-School on Dec. 3 in Daytona Beach, finishing tied for 10th, and found herself in rookie orientation the next day at LPGA headquarters. She was overwhelmed by talks of retirement plans and healthcare, but said the staff made her feel at home.
“They don’t ever let you feel like you don’t deserve to be there,” she said.
Long Beach State coach Joey Cerulle first learned of Teare through a packet in the mail. It was a DIY from the future design major, and an impressed Cerulle decided to go watch her in person. He was immediately drawn to Teare’s power and athleticism.
“You can’t teach players to hit it the way she does,” Cerulle said.
Teare never played on the AJGA. Her biggest exposure to college coaches came at the Junior World Championships in San Diego. Teare played softball through her sophomore year of high school, and after committing to Long Beach State talked to Cerulle about finding the right teaching pro.
As soon as Teare met with instructor Ted Norby, they hatched a vision that would take her to the LPGA.
Cerulle won once in college and was named Big West Conference Golfer of the Year her senior season. She became only the second player in Long Beach State history to qualify as an individual for NCAA regionals. After graduating, Teare returned to school to serve as an assistant coach until the Symetra Tour season kicked into full swing last spring.
Cerulle refers to Teare as “The General” and appreciates her ability to take charge.
“She has never backed down from anybody,” he said.
Such tenacity will serve her well at the next level.
Teare was onsite as an alternate at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle near San Jose, Calif. She used that time on the range next to players like Gerina Piller and Stacy Lewis as an opportunity to size up her game.
“Instead of feeling intimidated,” said Teare, “I felt encouraged.”
Piller, a fellow late-bloomer who played multiple sports, serves as a modern-day example of what used to be the norm on the LPGA. She took up the game at 15 and played college golf at UTEP. Lewis, meanwhile, is the only player in the top 30 of the Rolex Rankings who played four years of college golf.
There is no manual for making it on the LPGA. Even with phenoms, it can be difficult to predict long-term success. Teare earned full status for 2017 while former NCAA champion and Symetra Tour juggernaut Annie Park missed the cut at Q-School.
This is all new to Teare, whose name is new to most.
“I don’t see any reason why that makes me not worthy to be there,” she said. “I think I’ve earned it just like everybody else.”
(Note: This story appears in the Dec. 18, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)