When people ask me what brought me to Carolina, I often reply, “the Big Blue Van.” While that may seem shallow and of course there is a lot more to it, I don’t believe I am very far off. 

I arrived at Chapman Golf Center (UNC Golf Teams Facilities) for my first unofficial visit on October 2nd, 2013. As I pulled left into the parking lot, a beautiful baby blue Mercedes Sprinter van sat at the front of the facility. On the side of the van wrote, Tar Heels Women’s Golf. Now I may have been young and naive or maybe it was my fascination with cars, but I was in absolute awe. 

The Big Blue Van on that October day.

I walked out of my car to introduce myself to Head Coach, Jan Mann, and Associate Head Coach, Leah Wigger. It wasn’t long before Coach Mann said, “hop in, let’s go check out campus.” Just like that I was getting a ride in the Big Blue Van. Not only that, I was sitting in the front seat. 

Over three months later, on January 27, 2014, I committed to continue my golf career and education as a Tar Heel. 

Fast forward two years and so began my journey in Carolina Blue. 

I’ll never forget my first tournament. Better yet, my first van ride. We were headed to Knoxville, Tennessee for a tournament hosted by the University of Tennessee. Fellow freshman, Mariano Ocano, and I found our place in the van where all freshmen sit… the back. Now, most of the time the back of the bus was not the most glamorous experience. To us, this was. We figured out that the seat reclined all the way back so we pretty much made it a bed. The team told Coach to turn on the party lights, which were lights around the inside of the van that made the cozy room glow. Even though we were farthest from the TV in the front, we still thought it was pretty cool we could all watch a movie together. 

Our first van ride.

From that day forward, the memories in the van are like a movie real running through my head. It’s where all the celebrations took place after wins at the Cougar Classic and Briar Creek Invitational. The times when Coach would let us keep the side door open as we went down the road of our golf center. Or the tears we shed together after a disappointing round. The games we’ve played out of pure boredom like Pterodactyl, Heads Up and Karaoke. The so many times I’ve been told I am the absolute worst singer, but continue to sing anyway. The very many team pow wows we’ve had after tournaments and listen to our coaches tell us things we didn’t want, but needed to hear. Inside that Big Blue Van was a family and it seemed we were driving through life together. We shared in laughter, in love, and in sadness. 

To me, the Big Blue Van is a microcosm of my whole Carolina Experience.

At Carolina, we are all together under one big blue sky. The friends, classmates and professors that I have been fortunate enough to cross paths with have become my Carolina family. Whether it was in the old classrooms of Manning hall or the new innovative room of Reese News Lab lasting relationships were forged. We developed skills that would prepare us for our dream jobs after college, but most of all we learned life lessons that extended beyond school or the workplace. To all the professors that saw the big picture and left me inspired by the end of each class, thank you.

In the shaking Dean Dome or the roaring Kenan Stadium, the comradery between all Carolina students was felt and we learned lessons of victory and defeat. Then to Franklin Street, the tar that has felt the weight of the whole student body come together in celebration of a Carolina victory. Or the light touch of a few friends walking in and out of Chapel Hill signatures like He’s Not and TOPO on a Saturday night. It is these shared memories that bind us all together as Tar Heels. 

Franklin Street after National Championship victory my freshman year.

Yesterday was graduation day for my class of 2020. Today, I thought I’d wake up and all of these experiences would now just be memories I’d hold onto for the rest of my life. I envisioned hanging up my Carolina Blue gown and realizing my time playing in that oh so perfect color had come to a close. I expected that the next time that Big Blue Van pulled away for a tournament, I wouldn’t be in there. Just as the van has before, life has taken an unexpected turn. 

Due to COVID-19, the NCAA has granted spring athletes the ability to return for another season. With a grateful heart, I will be accepting this opportunity to return to Chapel Hill for another year. I want to thank our Rams Club for your loyalty and constant support of Tar Heel student-athletes. To our athletic department, thank you for working tirelessly to provide this opportunity to me and other 2020 spring athletes. Lastly, to my team, my coaches, trainers and staff thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve had to make to welcome me back.

I can’t wait to take one more lap in the Big Blue Van!!!

Walking into one more year.