Shutdown gave LPGA rookies time to replicate, reset

Haley Moore had been ready three months to begin her skilled profession. It was the primary week of February, and the time had lastly come. Moore, 21, was lastly teeing it up as a member of the LPGA Tour on the third event of the season, the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia.

In November, the College of Arizona standout certified for the LPGA Tour after putting 11th on the 2019 Q-Collection. Since elementary faculty, Moore had dreamed about taking part in on the tour. Now, she might lastly name herself a rookie.

Within the first spherical of her skilled debut, Moore shot 6-under 66 and was on prime of the leaderboard.

“Instantly, I used to be throughout TV and in print media as one of many leaders,” Moore recalled.

However, by the tip of the third spherical, Moore missed the lower — the occasion had cuts after each the second and third rounds — by one shot. She advised herself that it was only the start, and the subsequent event was proper across the nook.

After Australia, Moore traveled again to her residence in California to arrange for the primary of 9 occasions earlier than the U.S. Ladies’s Open in June. At the moment, the LPGA had canceled three tournaments in Asia out of security issues over COVID-19. However Moore needed to stay constructive and concentrate on her subsequent event, the Volvik Founders Cup in Arizona.

“The LPGA issued a press release in the beginning of March and stated there can be no interruption to their present U.S. schedule of occasions. I used to be relieved,” Moore stated. “I made my approach over to Phoenix to follow and prepare for the Founders Cup. Then, I seemed on the information on my telephone throughout follow and noticed that the occasion was postponed. I packed my baggage and went residence. Then the Kia Basic was postponed. The ANA Inspiration was postponed. Occasion after occasion now postponed or canceled. This was by no means a part of my grasp plan.”

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For the 19 rookies who certified for the 2020 LPGA Tour, a season riddled with postponements and cancellations as a result of coronavirus pandemic was by no means in anybody’s grasp plan. Lots of the rookies who competed on the fourth event of the season, the ISPS Handa Ladies’s Australian Open, thought that was only the start of a full 12 months of competitors.

Now, 166 days after the final time the LPGA teed it up, the 2020 season resumes with back-to-back occasions in Toledo, Ohio, beginning Friday with the inaugural LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Membership. This week, 16 of these 19 rookies will tee it up for the second section of their preliminary season.

For Moore and fellow rookies Jillian Hollis, Patty Tavatanakit, Andrea Lee and Albane Valenzuela, this season has been unprecedented. However every tried to take advantage of their time away from the LPGA Tour.

When Moore came upon the season was being placed on maintain due to COVID-19, she knew she would want to discover a option to nonetheless compete and stay tournament-ready.

Fortuitously for Moore and different professionals, the Cactus Tour — knowledgeable girls’s mini-tour within the Southwest run by Mike Brown — was nonetheless staging tournaments. Moore was acquainted with the Cactus Tour and had competed on it in preparation for the LPGA Q-Collection. Though holding the tournaments was criticized by many, the Cactus Tour adopted security protocols set in place by the state of Arizona and allowed gamers like Moore to compete for cash and keep tournament-ready.

“Though I did not have a particular ‘again to work’ date, I needed to maintain my recreation sharp, so I entered tournaments on the Cactus Tour,” Moore stated. “The primary month and a half, we had been getting actually criticized about taking part in. However, the tour director [Brown] made certain we had been training secure protocols, social distancing, doing the whole lot in a secure method. We had been all simply wanting to maintain taking part in as a result of we did not know when the LPGA was going to begin up once more.”

Moore competed in 11 tournaments on the mini-tour and gained three of them. After these three wins, Moore stated she feels extra assured and ready for the LPGA restart.

“The final win felt very, superb,” Moore stated. “Just about the whole lot was simply as spot on as may be, and I simply wish to maintain having that momentum going into this week and subsequent week. The aim for these occasions is simply to go on the market and simply maintain the great play going that I have been having, after which for the long run, simply attempt to play as a lot as I can and attempt to earn some cash.”

For Moore, taking part in in tournaments was vital to feeling prepared for at any time when the LPGA began up once more. For former Symetra Tour and collegiate golf standouts Hollis and Tavatanakit, the break allowed them to hit the refresh button and reset their video games — one thing neither have had the chance to do in years.

“It has been a pleasant psychological break. I’ve by no means had a summer season like this off earlier than,” Hollis stated. “We’re all the time touring in the summertime and we’re all the time saying no to the whole lot due to what we do, taking part in and the whole lot. I’ve used essentially the most of it, all this day off.”

Hollis, who spent the tour shutdown in Atlanta, stated she feels extra ready than ever to tackle the second section of her rookie season.

“I realized on this day off that there is extra to life than taking part in golf on a regular basis, speaking about golf,” she stated. “There are different issues in life than golf. I’ve had large assist throughout this time, and it is allowed me to only understand that I could make deeper connections past simply golf. I am tremendous pleased proper now.”

Hollis stated her targets have not modified — she’s prioritizing her security and the protection of others above all else and realizing that she will focus solely on the current.

“My No. 1 aim proper now could be to not get coronavirus,” Hollis stated. “To be as secure as I may be and to not put anyone else in danger. I really feel very secure competing this week. And I am nonetheless making an attempt to win out right here and making an attempt to get higher each week. It is lots mentally to place via your head. I can solely concentrate on what is going on on proper now. So, I believe simply conserving a degree head goes to be a most important aim for the remainder of the season.”

Former UCLA participant Tavatanakit spent her quarantine in Orlando, Florida, and that allowed her to play golf practically each day. However the break additionally allowed her to hit reset on the psychological and bodily facets of her recreation.

“It was a blessing for me to remain in Florida,” Tavatanakit, a local of Thailand, stated. “It was nice to have the ability to be out right here and nonetheless play golf and have all of the accessibility to programs and different assets to nonetheless succeed. It was reset to work on my recreation and to work on issues that I would not have had the prospect to after I was on the highway. It was a extremely good break to get my recreation to the place it wanted to be for this return to the LPGA Tour. I simply really feel actually blessed that I used to be ready to make use of this time and spend it right here.”

Former Stanford stars Lee and Valenzuela determined to return to their household houses when the tour was postponed. However the time away from the LPGA Tour did not simply contain spending time with household, training golf and making ready for the return of event play. It additionally meant ending their schooling and graduating from Stanford.

Each Lee and Valenzuela determined to forgo their last semester of faculty golf to show skilled, after incomes their LPGA standing at Q-Collection final November. And each had been ready to tackle the challenges that got here with juggling a rookie season on tour and ending school programs to earn their levels. When the pandemic hit, the whole lot modified — together with their plans for commencement.

“It was actually emotional. Stanford has been actually the most effective years of my life,” stated Lee, who quarantined at residence in Hermosa Seaside, California. “I used to be watching the digital commencement ceremony with my mother and father, and it was anticlimactic. It was solely 30 minutes lengthy. I used to be sitting with my mother and father, watching this factor, and when it ended, I used to be like, ‘That is it? The tip of my Stanford profession?’ I simply sat there and cried for a little bit bit.”

When Valenzuela turned skilled in November, she questioned whether or not she would have been capable of attend an in-person graduation due to the LPGA Tour. As soon as the pandemic hit and Valenzuela returned residence to the Bahamas (the place her household has resided for the previous two years), she knew her last months as a Stanford pupil can be not like another.

“We tried to make the digital graduation considerably enjoyable, however the actuality of it’s nothing will substitute an actual graduation. It simply does not provide the proper closure,” Valenzuela stated. “It was positively a little bit bit completely different. However, for me, a very powerful factor was actually simply getting my diploma. I graduated from Stanford, and I managed to perform the whole lot I needed to academically.”

Graduating additionally took some strain off of Valenzuela, she stated.

“Now, figuring out that I am on tour and I haven’t got to consider it anymore, I believe it is such an awesome aid and actually offers me a number of peace of thoughts figuring out that I am a Stanford graduate,” Valenzuela stated. “I can actually concentrate on golf full time. I will attempt to take advantage of this chance to play once more.”

Lee, a report nine-time winner at Stanford, stated she additionally tried to concentrate on her recreation throughout her quarantine. Within the first few weeks that the tour shut down, Lee took a while off from golf earlier than getting again to the fundamentals and refocusing her targets after commencement.

“The primary couple of weeks when it began, I actually took the whole lot off. I did not contact a membership for a little bit bit,” Lee stated. “It was good to have a little bit break, however clearly, I actually needed to get again on the market and compete as quickly as attainable. So, when programs began opening up once more in L.A. County, I took each alternative to get on the market. This day off has actually given me an opportunity to take a seat down and actually suppose what do I must do to arrange for the remainder of the season.”

With so many uncertainties flooding their rookie seasons, the one factor Moore, Hollis, Tavatankit, Lee and Valenzuela can all agree on is their pleasure to play within the LPGA and to hold out any classes they could’ve realized throughout this break. Above all else, they know they’re a part of a rookie class that can be ceaselessly remembered on the tour.

“I believe after I’m an previous grandma, I will inform my grandkids, ‘My rookie 12 months was throughout COVID,'” Valenzuela stated jokingly. “That’ll be within the historical past books.”

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