I hope everyone is managing to cope with the COVID-19 virus and staying healthy. The virus has meant I’ve had to return home as schools and universities across the USA have closed down. I flew home last Friday 20th and am now in self-isolation till Friday 3rd April. It’s great to see my family but have to say it’s tough not being able to walk past our driveway! Let alone hit some balls on the range.
I thought you might like an update and some latest news about my college golf experiences in the USA. Our spring season, which runs from end of January to May, began with a team retreat to Bandon Dunes, Oregon where we played top courses for two days. It was a great team bonding weekend and gave us time to get prepared before our focused training started to ramp up.
Our first competitive tournament was at the end of February in San Luis Obispo, CA. We finished 5th as a team in a very competitive field. Unfortunately, I didn’t play as well as I would have liked but I still finished in the top 25 which helped me to mentally get my head around my score. Our second tournament was in Fairfax CA, and we were lucky enough to have Juli Inkster come and speak at the welcome dinner. Juli is a famous golfer and captained the US Solheim Cup team. Heading into the last round our team was 5 back, so we knew we had to go into the last day ready to go low! Amazingly our team ended up winning the tournament by 6 shots! It was a very thrilling event and I individually finished 7th in a field of 72 players. It was a great tournament, but little did we know that it would be our last for the remainder of the spring season.
Our team had been working so hard to get to nationals which was to be held in May in Arizona. We also had four tournaments prior to the nationals, including regionals. As a team we were prepared for a crazy season and were ready to give it our all. However, on the day that we returned from our win in California, we were informed that our schooling for the next 3 weeks was going to be online due to the recent outburst of the COVID-19 virus in the USA. At first, I was stoked as it meant I could do classes online and take my time on assignments. I was quite excited. However, this excitement quickly turned to sadness when we were informed the next day that the NCAA had decided to cancel all sports for the remainder of the academic year! This meant that our sport, as well as basketball, gymnastics, baseball, softball and many others were stripped of the opportunity of competing, playing at national and continuing to work with college coaches. The NCAA ruling left coaches, players and teammates completely distraught as everything we had worked for was taken away with immediate effect. My team was heartbroken.
But on reflection the NCAA was acting in exactly the right way as not long after the announcement we learned that COVID-19 was getting rapidly worse. Life on campus became increasingly scary, especially for a 19-year-old Aussie living alone on the other side of the world. The increased pressure from politicians and decision makers quickly led to the closure of boarders, lockdowns and strict travel rules that were muted to be in place for the next 6 months. Many of my international friends and college athletes quickly decided that it would be best to go home until August so that they had a safe place to live as there was talk that the college dorms would close, and the USA would go into lockdown. Over the weekend of April 14-15, it was a complete and utter mess. I was in constant contact with Mum and Dad. We were lucky enough to get a flight back home to Australia just before the USA and Australia closed borders. Needless to say, LAX and the flight was also scary at times.
So, as I write this update on Friday 27th March I am currently still in self-isolation.
This experience has been crazy, and it is definitely not how I saw my first year of college playing out. There is talk at the moment from the NCAA about giving student-athletes playing spring sports an additional year of eligibility. This means that there is a possibility for me to continue my scholarship and play college golf for 5 years instead of the normal 4-year allowance. The NCAA is calling it the Corona-Redshirt, in other words an extra year to make up for the missed opportunity this year.
In amongst the COVID-19 emergency we also finished winter term where I gained a 4.0GPA (grade point average) for my studies. This is the highest GPA you can get, and I was extremely proud of myself to achieve this as I never thought it would be something that I could achieve given I didn’t think I was academically strong. It just shows if you put yourself in a successful environment and surround yourself with supportive people, you can achieve unimaginable things.
Apart from being very happy to spend some bonus time with my family now I’m back in Oz, I am excited to also play with the ladies again on Thursdays and Saturdays. When I’m out of self-isolation I’ll be doing some practice and putting my name down for the comps so please let me know if you’d like to play a round together. At this stage I’m here till mid-August when I hope to fly back to college and start my sophomore year on September 1st, but I guess that depends on how the world copes with COVID-19.
In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy. We’re all in this together and we will get through it!
Thanks again for everyone’s support.