It’s hard for Haley Moore not to think about money. Spending it. Making it. Raising it.
She’s the Cinderella of college golf. A player everyone wants to root for. A strong woman who overcame childhood bullying and body shaming to help lead Arizona to the 2018 NCAA title. And don’t forget her memorable birdie on the 16th at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, breaking a streak of 15 consecutive pars.
Yet when Moore graduated from college at the age of 20, corporations weren’t lining up to write her a check. Feel-good stories and clutch performances aren’t enough to warrant sponsorships.
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Never mind that she’s enjoyed a television spotlight since she made the cut at the ANA Inspiration as a 16-year-old high schooler.
Never mind that there’s no one else like Moore in golf. That she’s the type of player the game should celebrate as an inspiration to the countless kids who quietly suffer in a world that can be unmercifully cruel.
No, Moore had to go the same route as most young women getting started in the professional game. It takes money to make money on the LPGA. Lots of it, in fact. The few sponsors that are willing to put money on a rookie won’t do so until there’s a tour card in hand.
“I have to earn it,” said Moore, who currently has no sponsors and recently cruised through the first stage of LPGA Q-School.
Since graduating from Arizona, Moore has competed in seven professional events, mostly on the Cactus Tour. She has won three, including the Cal State Women’s Open, at which she earned her largest check to date of $6,000.
Moore’s mother, Michele, keeps an Excel file of her daughter’s expenses. So far she has spent $15,000 on the road, which would be closer to $20,000, Michele said, if it weren’t for the gracious folks who offered housing at three of the stops, including Stage I. More like $25,000 if she had to fly. Haley drove to most of the events.
She’ll soon owe an additional $3,000 for October’s Stage 2 in Venice, Fla. That’s just the entry fee. It doesn’t include the cost of traveling from California to Florida, renting a car, paying for a caddie, staying in a hotel and possibly taking a family member along for support. (The entry fee for Stage I of Q-School, where Moore finished tied for eighth, was $2,500.)
At 20, Moore can’t legally check into hotels in some locations, so her mom has accompanied her on several trips.
“I do worry a little bit about money,” said Haley, who also finds the process motivating.
Michele said they planned to use the inheritance from her grandmother until they had to replace two broken AC units and furnaces at the family’s home over Christmas.
“By playing professional golf, I think Haley knows she’s most likely dipping into her family’s savings and retirement,” said Arizona coach Laura Ianello. “Haley is not a selfish person … she wants to do well not just for herself but for her family.”
Cactus Tour entry fees are $577 for members ($680 for non-members). Haley won $2,500 when she took first place at the Henderson, Nev., stop. These events aren’t about making money but rather preparing for the big show.
Every player who completes 72 holes at Stage II will receive Symetra status for the 2020 season. Last year, only 41 players advanced out of 193.
The final stage of qualifying, Q-Series, is a two-week marathon that takes place in Pinehurst. While there won’t be an entry fee that time for Moore should she advance, it’s still a costly affair.
“We are tapped out,” said Michele of the family’s finances.
Moore started a GoFundMe account that to date has raised $6,530 of her $30,000 goal. She does giveaways to entice fans to donate and carries business cards and thank-you notes everywhere she goes.
At the Country Club of Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, Haley plays in a men’s group on the weekends. Before she left for Stage I, members staged a fundraiser for Haley, raising $3,100. One member who couldn’t make it that day wrote her a check for $5,000.
“He wants me out there competing against these girls for the big money,” said Haley, with a laugh.
Rick Johnson first met the Moores while working at the First Tee San Diego and recently signed Haley to his company 20/10 Sports & Media. Johnson, who mentored Norman Xiong, said he won’t take a commission from Moore until after her rookie year on the LPGA.
“She goes to any golf course, kid you not, she’s a rock star,” said Johnson. “People stop and get pictures. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been blown away.”
Haley has played TaylorMade clubs for years, but as that’s not an option for an equipment deal, Johnson set up a meeting with PXG. CEO Bob Parsons reached out to Moore shortly after her visit. She’ll return next week to get fitted for a driver and see where it takes her. Haley played PXG wedges and hybrids at Stage I.
The learning curve at this level is as steep as the price tag.
When LPGA veteran Mo Martin turned professional, she approached one of the members at the club where she worked about putting together a contract to help pay for expenses on the Symetra Tour. Martin figured she needed about $40,000.
The late Jim Rothenberg, chairman of the Capital Group, got together with his pals at the club and presented her with the check. Martin, winner of the 2014 AIG Women’s British Open, paid them back throughout her Symetra career, eventually finishing the payout while on the LPGA.
She’ll never forget the time Rothenberg set her up with some of his American Airlines miles so that she could compete in the Massachusetts State Open.
“They put me in first class,” said Martin of her first professional start. “I wrote to him as soon as I landed. ‘Jim, you’re never going to believe it. They served the nuts warm.’ ”
Like many players, Martin can appreciate the hardscrabble journey Moore has embarked upon.
“Haley’s is a wonderful story,” said Ianello. “It gives hope to so many young girls that you can be a little different and you don’t have to look and conform to a certain way. You can still be an all-star, a rock star really.”
All she needs is a stage.