10 years ago today, I qualified for my first U.S. Women’s Amateur.

I’d go on to qualify for 4 more, but that first one was pivotal.

It was the second USGA event I qualified for that summer. Just a few weeks prior, I qualified for the U.S. Junior Girls. In January, I committed to playing for UNC. It felt like I was affirming the coach’s choice and their belief in me.

A LOT has happened in my life since then. It’s wild to look back at such a big moment so many years removed. To gain some perspective and draw more value from the experience, I reflected on the 10 lessons I learned 10 years ago.

  1. It’s worth the wait, stay your course. I was 16 years old when I qualified for my first USGA event. Many of my peers had checked that off their list at 13 or 14. I felt a bit behind, but I never stopped believing in myself. Finally, 2014 was my year. Don’t get caught in following someone else’s; trust in your own journey.
  2. What was a big moment is now a memory. Signing my scorecard was a sigh of relief. I was one of the last to finish, and the moment I walked into the scoring tent, I knew I’d accomplished my goal. No waiting, and no one could take that away from me. Many years later, that moment is a memory I reflect on in hard times. I know that I put in the work and let my belief in my abilities overcome any doubt.
  3. Victory is so much sweeter when shared with others. My dad was on the bag. We did it together. At that time, I thought of his contribution as carrying the bag, calculating yardages, and offering moral support. Now, I realize the support that day was nominal compared to the years he’d invested and believed in me. Sharing the victory together made it so sweet.
  4. The real joy is in the journey.That summer, I had a lot of success. Winning taught me a valuable lesson – the real joy is in the journey. Those moments of victory are fleeting; they last just a little while. I always found way more satisfaction in the pursuit than in the victory itself.
  5. Enjoy the experience.The Women’s Am was hosted at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, NY. That year, Gatsby was taking over the movie scene. The Welcome Party was Gatsby-themed, which was really neat. Waitresses wore table dresses that carried champagne. Everyone older than me was dancing, socializing, and enjoying the festivities. I was too, but more reserved. I was preoccupied by the pressures of the week ahead. Looking back, I’d tell myself to relax and take in the experience. I’d probably play better too.
  6. Lose the limited vision. My vision was limited. I remember thinking, “This is my one shot to really succeed. I can win this event.” With that came a weight of expectations and added pressure that was not conducive to performing my best. I’d have 4 more chances to win that tournament. I didn’t know it then, but I wish I did. I wish I could tell myself to just use this one to get my feet wet and learn. Now, I can only imagine how many times that happens to all of us in life. Take it one step at a time.
  7. Thrive in the thick stuff. The rough was really thick that week. I’ve always thrived in thick rough because I have strong wrists. Now, I see that as a metaphor to try to find the thick rough in life and still find a way to get up and down for par.
  8. Always look onward and upward.I was really disappointed with how I played that week. I didn’t come close to making match play. I didn’t have much time to sit around and pout. I had to get better for an AJGA tournament that was less than two weeks later. I went on to win that event. That week, I learned it’s okay to fail if you can learn from it and let it launch you into another success.
  9. Just be grateful.When I realized I wasn’t qualifying for match play, I removed my blinders and looked around. There was an army of volunteers, greenskeepers, and caddies putting in the work so us players could have the best experience possible. When I looked at it through that lens, I was just grateful to be there.
  10. Making a 10 is not that big of a deal. In my first round, I made a 10. That was a first. I was absolutely mortified. I couldn’t get the ball on the green. I was stuck at the bottom of a false front. My brain was in a complete tizzy, and I struggled to get my head back in the game. Now, I laugh about it. It was just a hole, just a day, just a memory. Yet, I couldn’t see that then.

There you have it, 10 lessons from looking back 10 years ago. I’ll leave you with the last lesson I learned from looking back – life is short, enjoy the ride.