I recently spoke at Congressional Country Club as part of the Mid-Atlantic PGA College Golf seminar, along with a great group of college coaches. While the seminar was awesome and very educational for the families, for me, being back in the DC area brought back one of my favorite memories from my Tour days.
Let me start from the beginning, my first summer as a professional golfer was basically just an extension of college golf. Most of us recent college grads had gone to Futures Tour Qualifying over the winter (Futures Tour is now the Symetra Tour) and we earned status to play after our college season was over. From my runner-up finish in the US Women’s Am, I had an exemption into the US Women’s Open but I had to stay amateur in order to play, so while all of my college golf friends headed out on tour I waited 6 weeks to turn professional. During that US Women’s Open, I did have the pleasure of playing with Michelle Wie during the practice round. That was her first US Women’s Open at the ripe age of 13, but I remember thinking that I had never seen a female of any age strike the ball the way she did, she really did hit it like a man.
After I got back from the US Women’s Open, I officially kicked off my professional golfer career and joined the crew for the last few events of the Futures Tour season. When you have 144 female golfers, mostly recent college grads, traveling all over the country, from city to city, on our own for the first time, making the most of the money we made (or didn’t make), you can bet some good stories were created. One of my favorites from that summer was a night spent in DC before we headed to the Maryland coast for a tournament. We had all gone out that night and upon heading home we asked a cop if any of the monuments would still be open. Obviously, everything was closed as it was well past our bedtimes, but after hearing that we were only in town for the night, he took 3 of us on a private, escorted tour of the monuments for the rest of the night. We went to the Jefferson Memorial, to the top of the Washington Monument at 3 am and we got to drive down a restricted street behind the White House. Quite the unique way to experience Washington, DC!
After the first summer as a professional came to an end we all headed to LPGA Q-School. I was one of the “lucky” ones who despite making a triple bogey in the final round, managed to drain a 30ft putt on the final hole to earn full LPGA status for the 2004 LPGA season. My dream of playing on the LPGA Tour had come true! What you hear about Q-School being one of the most grueling weeks of any professional golfer’s career is true, but the feelings still can’t even begin to be described in words. Over my professional golf career, I ended up back at LPGA Q-School seven times, and each of those weeks probably took off about a year of my life. But it taught me some of the most valuable lessons of patience and perseverance.
That first year on the LPGA Tour had its share of ups and downs. My dad caddied for me that year so good or bad rounds of golf, having him there made memories that I will never forget. I had met Vince Gill backstage at his concert when I was a kid, where he told me he would caddy for me if I ever made it on the LPGA Tour, so I was honored to have him on my bag during the LPGA tournament he and Amy Grant hosted in Nashville. That was by far one of the coolest experiences of my life, he was so much fun and treated my whole family like his own. But that first year on the LPGA Tour was a year that I will never forget, but it was also a year that I look back on and wonder what I could have done to be more prepared for that transition.
Kay Cockerill told me during my first tournament as an LPGA member that her biggest piece of advice is to “stick with what got you here”. While that was some great advice and has a very good point because it’s easy to get caught up in what you “think” you should be doing out there to fit in, there are some things you must consider as you step from any level of competitive golf to another. Most importantly, you must figure out your weaknesses and find ways to improve them. For me, I needed to work on the mental part of my game, but I never took the time that year, or the following years, to focus on that area of my game. I was afraid to ask for help and I didn’t utilize some very valuable people and resources who were available to me during that time. There is a healthy level of stubbornness among athletes that keeps them determined to get better and overcome setbacks, but there is also an unhealthy level of stubbornness that prevents them from being coachable and willing to try new things in order to work on the weaker areas of the game.
Professional golf gave me opportunities I could never have dreamed of when I was a little girl proclaiming that I would play on the LPGA Tour one day. Not only did I get to play alongside the best female golfers in the world, but I got to experience some of the coolest sites and experiences off the course, from Niagara Falls, to Alcatraz, from a calendar shoot on the beach in Maui, to white water rafting in Banff, CA, from watching the shuttle take off at Mission Control in Houston, TX to a private Eagles concert in Myrtle Beach, SC.
I try not to have any regrets for not doing more to ensure success on the LPGA Tour but my biggest piece of advice for aspiring golfers is to ask for help and take advantage of those people and resources who have more knowledge and experience than you do. You can learn so much from not only the experience they have gained but also the mistakes they made along the way. Don’t be stubborn, don’t be resistant to change, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Brandi Jackson had a stellar collegiate career at Furman University, then she went on to play professionally for 8 years on the LPGA and Symetra Tour. In 2012 Brandi was inducted into the Furman University Athletic Hall of Fame and she serves on the Board of Directors for The Blade Jr Classic. She runs her own business out of Greenville, South Carolina where she consults junior golf families all over the world on competitive junior golf and the college recruiting process. For more information on Brandi Jackson visit her website at www.brandijacksongolf.com. Follow Brandi on Twitter @bjacksongolf and Instagram @bjacksongolf.
For more information about college golf recruiting and competitive junior golf, including Brandi’s innovative online Golf Recruiting 101 Course and Recruit Caddy Service, visit www.brandijacksongolf.com.