The very best moment of the season was, no doubt, sinking that downhill winding 50-footer for birdie to get my score to 2-under at the LPGA Manulife Classic. I had been scrambling all day. Finally, on hole 16, I made that putt and just knew I was going to go on and make the cut. I’ll tell ya, I’ve had my share of times when my putter couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn let alone a tiny hole, 50 treacherous feet away, but that week in Canada wasn’t one of those times! I was sinkin’ em at my very first LPGA event and I had an amazing time.
The Manulife in Canada was part of my thickest stretch of golf this summer. In a span of 13 days, I played 10 competitive rounds. One second I was playing in Hockey Nation, the next Ohio, the next Illinois, and so on and so forth. My good friend Ridge always calls me Tumbleweed because as he sees it… “Allie’s just always rollin’ to who knows where all the time”!
Yet this season had more of a focus to it than past days of ‘tumbleweeding’ around. I knew from the start I wanted to play in an LPGA tournament. I had never played in one and it just felt like something that I oughta do if I could. Past seasons, I had put more focus on playing hard and enjoying the Symetra Tour, and on trying to win the Ohio Open, and even on trying to position myself for the best US Open qualifier opportunity.
This year, everything I did was about getting my game ready for a Big Monday. Because my Grad Assistant Coaching job starts in August and ends in May, I knew that in order to accomplish this dream, I was going to need to get my game into shape quickly and with intensity. Trust me, I really am just as bad as anyone else coming out of winter who doesn’t touch a club- lots of trees with bruises left in my wake. But I’d like to think that I get my swing back in a hurry.
Every year the LPGA has about 15 Monday qualifiers where anywhere from roughly 15 to 80 golfers battle it out for 18 holes to see who gets to claim one of the two top qualifying spots. The two low players then get to play in the ensuing LPGA tournament that week. Thus, it also takes a little bit of luck to make a Monday, considering it just has to be your day and not someone else’s.
The journey to my Big Monday started, honestly, in Virginia at the LPGA Kingsmill Championship. Kingsmill would have been the first Monday that I could have signed up for this year but I opted not too because I thought my game needed work. I figured that four days playing the Symetra Women’s Health Classic in South Carolina would be more beneficial for improving. It was a handy decision in that I fired a day one 68 to lead the tournament. I definitely didn’t see that coming, but I loved every minute of it while it lasted!
Thus, I didn’t try to make the Kingsmill Monday. Some players who played in South Carolina did hop in their cars and drive seven hours to play on Monday, I was not one of them. This left me an opening to instead go watch my golf buddy, Katherine Perry (KP), who is currently having a killer good rookie year on the LPGA, tee it up at Kingsmill.
It was actually the first time I’ve gone to an LPGA event since I was a 10-year-old carrying Se Ri Pak’s scores at the old Ohio Tartan Fields LPGA event. Lucky kid… I didn’t even know how cool that was!
But I know, shame on me for letting it be that long! Thus, on the Thursday morning of the Kingsmill Championship, at 4 am, my friends, Tyler and Blake, and I piled into my little Prius in Raleigh to start our journey up to Virginia for KP’s early morning tee time.
KP was playing with one of our familiar foes, Wake Forest Demon Deacon standout Cheyenne Woods who I still owe for handing me that second place individual finish at the ACC Championship in 2011. It was so cool to see Cheyenne, KP, and some of my other old-time pals up there playing in the Big Leagues! Heck, I even got a little paparazzi excited when Cheyenne waved and said hi. Between, the complimentary tickets and the high rollin’ clubhouse pass I was diggin’ the spectator lifestyle. But… I could still feel a little seed in my heart saying, “You just need to play in one of these tournies, just one time Allie.”
It’s not like I haven’t tried before though. The Big Monday that I usually try to get myself hyped up for is the one in my home state, the LPGA Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio. I’ve always reveled in the idea of having some Ohio Farmer fans out there to cheer me on. But this year I decided if I really wanted to play an LPGA tournament then maybe I should give some other Mondays a chance too, seeing as my Ohio luck has yet to pan out (it didn’t this year either… but I hope to give it another go!).
Along came Canada. I remember looking on the list of qualifiers and thinking, oh Canada, well I haven’t been there in a while, what the heck. I’ve always met the nicest Canadian people and I just figured anywhere that invented Tim Horton’s must have incredibly good vibes. After all, I’m such a grad school yuppie latte dweeb these days that I was hoping to run into Tim Hortons himself and he’d agree to sponsor me!
Anyway, back to reality, after I missed a Symetra cut in Albany, New York, there was little to do but head on over to Cambridge, Canada, not far from Toronto for the June 5th Monday qualifier. It was kind of a comical drive that June Sunday for a few reasons.
I had no idea if they were allowing practice rounds or a walk through… I guess, I just hadn’t read the information email very thoroughly and had never been there before… but, I decided that I would leave at 6 am Sunday for the 6-hour drive just in case I could squeeze a practice round in. Off, I went, this time opting for a Dunkin Doughnuts morning latte (I’d accept a Dunkin sponsorship as well).
I was driving along like a champ for a few hours when lo and behold I spotted the Women’s Rights National Museum and naturally being myself, I just had to stop. After a quick lecture from reincarnated Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself, two hours in the museum, and a few teary eyed moments, I had learned everything my heart desired at that moment about early women’s rights and I hopped back into my car determined to get to the course by the afternoon, still with time for a practice round.
Not long after approaching the border in a breeze, I found myself eyeing signs for Niagara Falls. Absolutely not Allie, keep driving, I thought. I let one exit opportunity pass, the second one passed, the third one gone, oh no! The very last exit- I had to go! It was a great decision by the way, but after some awe gazing at the incredible waterfalls, I ended up getting to the course around 6 pm. It was not my fastest 6-hour drive! Much to my relief there had been no practice rounds allowed and there was plenty light enough to get in a good quality walk through.
Thus, after my walk, I went to bed pretty tired and I woke up to a gnarly, misty, breezy, cool forecast. Former LPGA Professional Emma De Groot, an Australian Canadian transplant, for the moment, would be my caddie for the qualifier. Emma had three amazing qualities as a caddie. She really knows golf and so you can trust her advice (she is a pro!). She takes the time to walk the course and get the numbers, thus she has really good numbers. And, she is a chatterer, which keeps me wonderfully distracted from getting nervous.
We were a great fit and my putter was hot. I’ve been trying a new two-ball putter this season and it was peaking. I stuffed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of the qualifier to secure my one-under, 71, 1st place qualifying finish. It was one of the smaller Monday qualifier fields with only 18 players, but holy smokes I couldn’t have cared less… I was playing in the LPGA Manulife Classic. Dream Come True!
The week was magical. Everything they say about how great the food is for the LPGA is true! I didn’t have all my Ohio Farmer Allie’s Allies fans fully mobilized, but my sister and my mom did find the time to make it up to Canada, which was pretty special. I roomed with former University of North Carolina teammate, Maia Schecter as it was her first LPGA event as well. It was great to have her there because she is just a kind person and the familiarity was comforting. We both enjoyed the immaculate greens, beautiful practice facilities, and overall atmosphere that included… fans and the Golf Channel!
Besides the dramatic 50-footer for birdie en route to making the cut, my other big highlight was pretty comical. I heard all of it after the fact… but apparently, my scorer had a technology malfunction and accidentally entered my score as a hole-in-one on a par 4. According to friends at home, The Golf Channel wasted no time interrupting Morning Drive to tell about LPGA Pro Allie White’s 300 some yard hole-in-one. Ha! I guess, when they had to correct themselves it was quite a riot… something along the lines of…”Well, no hole-in-one, but Allie is still a great golfer…”
So I might not have made an albatross par 4 hole-in-one, but I did have one of the best times of my life. And although I wish that more of Ohio had been up there to see me in action, overall it was nothing but an inspiring experience. Heck, I even beat Laura Davies in the end! But most importantly, it reminded me that the difference between all those Symetra Tour struggling pros and the LPGA lower half is subtle.
Allie White from Lancaster, Ohio, is a professional golfer and golf journalist. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at Ohio University. With four years of experience on the Symetra Tour, a cut made at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, and a 2016 Ohio Open Championship, White hopes to continue her golf career during her academic breaks.
“I grew up on an 88-acre farm in Southeast Ohio and currently live in the same area with my dog Finley where I cheer like crazy for all of my favorite Ohio sports teams. I love to play my guitar, listen to music, watch movies, and read good stuff!
My two biggest golf dreams are to play in Toledo Ohio’s LPGA event and to make it back to another US Open. I’m still hunting for that first hole in one!”
Images: Feature photo of LPGA Manulife Classic courtesy LPGA
Other photos: Allie White