Emma Talley evolves from wide-eyed rookie to veteran host at U.S. Women's Open

CARLSBAD, CA - MARCH 20: Emma Talley poses for a portrait during the LPGA KIA CLASSIC at the Park Hyatt Aviara on March 20, 2018 in Carlsbad, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Emma Talley evolves from wide-eyed rookie to veteran host at U.S. Women's Open

LPGA Tour

Emma Talley evolves from wide-eyed rookie to veteran host at U.S. Women's Open

The first time Emma Talley competed in a U.S. Women’s Open she was 15 years old and a nervous wreck. Not to mention deeply upset that her parents wouldn’t let her behind the wheel of the Lexus courtesy car.

“I must have looked lost or young in the locker room,” she said. “Karen Stupples asked, ‘Who are you? Did you qualify?’ She showed me around.’ ”

For her first practice round, Talley put her name down in a blank space on the tee sheet and was surprised to see Stacy Lewis show up the next day. Lewis praised Talley’s putting, projected a bright future and then told her to stay in school.

The next day in Colorado Springs was even better: Natalie Gulbis, Betsy King and Lewis joined her for a loop around The Broadmoor.

“Every time I see them,” she said, “I thank them for that day and how much they helped me.”

Seven years later, Talley will be the one playing host at Shoal Creek, where the former NCAA and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is a member. Shortly after Talley graduated from Alabama, the club offered her a spot in its “Tour hopefuls” program. (PGA Tour winners Michael Thompson and Smylie Kaufman enjoyed similar privileges as young pros.) Needless to say, the outgoing LPGA rookie will feel plenty of local love.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of texts that were flying around here,” said Martha Lang of membership buzz on the evening Talley qualified. Lang, a fellow Alabama grad who lives near the 12th green at Shoal Creek and serves on the USGA’s Executive Committee, captained Talley at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship in Japan.

Passion returns for 2018 U.S. Open

Talley, 24, didn’t realize how badly she wanted to qualify for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open until she was in the thick of it. After 36 holes, it took a birdie on the first playoff hole to secure a spot at Dunwoody (Ga.) Country Club.

“I threw the ticket in the air,” she said, laughing. “I was more nervous on that 6-footer than I was when I won the national championship.”

Last year on the Symetra Tour, Talley realized she needed to improve her wedge play from 100 yards to capitalize on par 5s in particular.

Her boyfriend bought her some cones around Thanksgiving and set them out 10 yards apart. In the playoff, Talley had 55 yards left for her third shot into a par 5 and knocked it to 6 feet.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited before,” she said of surviving the three-way contest.

Talley, who will be competing in her fifth U.S. Women’s Open this week, thought about going in early to practice at Shoal Creek but opted instead to rest and visit family. She has discovered that she usually plays best at the end of a three- to four-week stretch, and therefore decided to play the two events leading up to the Women’s Open. Besides, she can close her eyes and visualize every shot she wants to hit at Shoal Creek.

While a student at Alabama, Talley often went to Shoal Creek with her team to practice and competed in an NCAA Regional there her senior year. With heavy storms forecasted early in the week, advanced knowledge of the course might be particularly useful.

Before Talley headed out to Shoal Creek for the first time as a member, she messaged Lang to ask if she’d be around. Lang went down to the practice tee with Talley and introduced her to one member. Talley took it from there, meeting every person on the range before she started to hit balls. If the past is any indication, they were instant fans.

“It’s like heaven on earth to me,” Talley said of Shoal Creek. “I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.”

 

Latest

More Golfweek
Home