Rachel Rohanna woke up in the middle of the night in Daytona Beach, Fla., to abdominal cramps and a fierce craving for Gatorade and pickles. She recently had returned from an LPGA event in New Zealand and thought she was dehydrated from the travel. She picked up a jar of dill pickles and put them in her bag for the pro-am at the Symetra Tour Championship.
“Are you pregnant?” her caddie asked.
The thought had crossed Rohanna’s mind, though not because she craved pickles. Rohanna is a prolific pickle-eater, pairing them with strawberries and placing them on her peanut butter sandwiches.
Rohanna played carefree at the Tour Championship last October, knowing she’d have to compete at the final stage of LPGA Q-School regardless. She won her second career title at LPGA International and flew back to the family farm in Waynesburg, Pa., where her suspicions were soon confirmed. Rohanna and husband Ethan Virgili are set to welcome a baby girl in June.
“We can’t believe this happened,” she said, “but we’re thrilled.”
Rohanna, 26, plans to compete in 2018 both before and after she gives birth. In addition to her full status on the Symetra Tour, she has partial status on the LPGA. Rohanna can compete in up to 10 tournaments this season and return in 2019 with at least the same status.
There’s no one in professional golf quite like Rohanna, who balances her professional career with farm life. After winning her first Symetra title in 2015, she bought a heifer to celebrate. Rohanna recently flew home from a practice session in St. Petersburg, Fla., to help welcome the 85 calves that are due this week.
The couple’s cows are spread over 300 acres, and they’ll go out every two to three hours throughout the night to see if any of the calves have arrived. Ethan has a backpack at the ready with towels and tags. In a way, they’re more prepared for this next stage of life than most.
“I’m scared that if I tell him I’m in labor he’s going to stall and deliver the baby himself,” joked Rohanna, who would prefer to let the doctor handle it.
Rohanna’s paternal grandparents once operated a large dairy farm but sold off the cows when Rohanna was in middle school. After she married Ethannearly five years ago, the family pitched in to build them a home about a mile (through the woods by foot) from her grandparents. Their water comes from the spring on property, and they use a wood-burning stove for heat. There’s no wifi and no cable, but they do get DirectTV.
Allie White, a fellow Ohio State grad, stayed at the farm two years ago to hunt deer for the first time. It’s a 20-minute drive on unpaved roads to get to their house, White said, and she recalled stopping to talk to Rohanna’s grandfather in the middle of the road for 15 minutes. “Nobody came or cared,” she said.
White visited in November, when Virgili’s butcher shop was in full swing – he took over Virgili Custom Meats from his grandfather five years ago. Rohanna followed in the footsteps of her maternal grandfather, Dick Schwartz, who played on the PGA Tour in the late ’60s and the senior tour in the ’90s. Her grandmother, Roseann Schwartz, put on exhibitions with a young Patty Berg when she came to Pennsylvania and was head golf coach at Youngstown State. Up until last year, Roseann owned Whispering Pines Executive Golf Course, one of two courses in Rohanna’s family.
An ‘ever-changing’ body
Her uncles and cousins run Rohanna’s Golf Course in Waynesburg, a fun but tricky track where it’s difficult to find a flat lie. That’s where Rohanna nurtured a game that took her to the highest level.
Now she’s negotiating an ever-changing body as she prepares to start her 2018 season in March at the Monday qualifier in Phoenix for the LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Rohanna recently reached out to Gerina Piller, who is due with her first child in May, to see if the 20 yards she lost off the tee was normal. Piller reported she was 40 yards shorter when she competed in the Diamond Resorts Invitational last month.
“Yesterday was the first time that I noticed my belly was in the way of putting,” Rohanna said.
A blessed inconvenience for this woman on a mission. Gwk