Ask this collegians: What if I don’t make it?
A career in professional golf didn’t occur to Chris Brady when she enrolled at Vanderbilt. As a double major in civil engineering and economics, she had her eye on a college degree. But after a sophomore year in which Brady won twice and had five top 10s, she felt the pull toward the pro ranks in 2005.
“That was the year (Duke’s) Brittany Lang turned pro; a couple other people from my class turned pro that year. It was a great year to go to Q-School,” said Brady, adding that the LPGA Qualifying Tournament was “fairly easy” back then.
Brady concedes that her game peaked in college, especially after being focused on so many sports in high school in Charlotte, N.C. After turning professional in 2007 and earning nonexempt status on the LPGA in ’08, Brady abruptly left the game in ’09. Now, she works as a civil structural engineer for The Shaw Group, playing golf recreationally.
“I just decided that with the economy making the turn, women’s golf was on the downslope and the nuclear renaissance was on the upslope,” Brady said. “I went from a faltering industry to a booming industry.”
Brady’s decision to earn a college degree ensured a Plan B. For college golfers considering whether to turn pro, staying in school offers a chance to hone their game – and earn a degree, just in case – before chasing the LPGA dream.
Sarah Sasse-Kildow, an All-American at Nebraska who earned her degree in marketing, knew she had to make good use of her years in college for a shot at professional golf . Now a pharmaceutical representative, Sasse-Kildow had status on the Duramed Futures Tour for three years before joining the Nebraska PGA section.
“There’s a lot of different things to consider once you turn pro,” she said. “It’s not a free ticket anymore, and that was a big issue for me.”
Like Sasse-Kildow, Kristen White is grateful for her four years of college golf, and was able to sharpen her game under Ohio State coach Therese Hession. Despite winning the Big Ten championship and earning All-America honors as a senior in 2005, she knew she wasn’t ready for the LPGA. After completing an internship with Diamond Hill Capital Management, White, who earned her degree in marketing, opted for a sales career.
White remains an amateur but hasn’t ruled out turning pro.
“I was afraid it would turn something that I love so much into a job,” she said.
Mallory Hetzel, a two-time All-American at Georgia who recently was named head women’s coach at Western Carolina, proves that a career in golf isn’t limited to touring pros. Hetzel felt the pull to turn pro early in her college career but continued to play for the Bulldogs.
“My roommate and one of my best friends, Taylor Leon, turned pro after the first two years but that was sort of her plan all along,” Hetzel said.
Hetzel, who earned her advertising degree at Georgia, spent a year playing Futures Tour events before taking the job at Western Carolina. She surprised herself by staying at Georgia but doesn’t regret it.
“I definitely figured that I would turn pro after the four years, but I never considered leaving early,” Hetzel said. “Once I got there, I was so much in love with getting to go to school there.”