My journey really began before I was born. Seems strange, I know. I am the youngest of four. I have an older brother seven years older than me, a sister five years older and another sister three years older. Leading up to my birth, my brother and dad were fixed on the idea that this baby would finally be a boy. My dad grew up with two sisters, and he hoped his son would get the experience of having a brother that he never had.

So on June 1st, 1998, when a brown-haired 9 pound 1 ounce mammoth of a baby girl was born, the only words my brother had were, “Uhoh, Dad, that’s not good.” That didn’t stop him from treating me like one of his own. I became the mascot of any team he was on, the catcher for his pitching practice, his Xbox competitor and the little engine that could on his pick-up stickball team. I look back and wonder just how my brother did it. I mean, what do you do when your little sister is playing pick-up basketball and can’t understand why she can’t be on the skins team with you?

Needless to say, my brother became my best friend and my biggest role model. When he was happy, I was happy and when he was in pain, I was in pain. So, when too many concussions forced him out of football into the game of golf his freshman year of high school, I wasn’t going to let him enter this new venture alone. Our love for the game started at Tee’s driving range. He and one of his friends were going to hit a few balls so per usual, I tagged along. I didn’t know what golf was all about, but what I knew then was that I loved standing next to my brother and trying to hit it as far as him. The time ticked by, and the balls went flying. Long story short, we ended up in the office of Tee’s driving range, calling our mom explaining how we were never allowed back because we were found picking up balls from the driving range and hitting them again. So began our addiction.

As we bounced around from driving range to public courses, my dad was going through the application process of joining a golf course right up the street from our house. Yes, our growing passion for the game was a motivating reason for acquiring this membership, but the tipping point came down to daughters. My dad realized three daughters meant three weddings. So might as well kill two birds with one stone, and join the club to foster our drive to play golf and invest in a wedding venue.

Well, wedding venue was not at all in my thoughts. All I was thinking about is how Ryan and I can drive five minutes up the road and play golf WHENEVER WE WANT! And, that is just what we did. We hit on the range, we chipped, we putted, we walked and above all else we talked. We talked about golf, we talked about sports, we talked about our sisters, we talked about life, we talked about our dreams and everything under them.

Ryan played golf for the rest of his high school career and took a gap year after high school to hone his skills. He went on to play club golf at the University of South Carolina, and when he graduated played professional golf. His career in professional golf parlayed into the creation of Golf and Entrepreneurship Magazine. Since then, he has developed his own marketing and advertising agency, Walker Media.

As for me, I am at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill in my final season on the Women’s golf team. When I graduate, I will go on to pursue my dream of professional golf. I am majoring in Advertising in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. I hope to use my journey through professional golf and my skills in digital media to help inspire others just as my brother has inspired me.

To conclude this life long story that I condensed into a short blog post, I hope you all walk away with a warmer heart and a lesson. No, the lesson isn’t about taking bad news of not having a brother and making her the closest thing to a brother possible. The lesson is of role models and following. My brother has shaped my life in more ways than I could ever explain. You could say to this day I follow in his footsteps. We all have the opportunity to lead someone to chase their dreams. Journey’s are rocky, and nothing is better than having someone pushing you forward when you can’t muster the strength to yourself. To all older siblings, I hope you have a positive influence on your younger siblings. To the youngsters, listen to your older siblings. If you are like me, you didn’t want to admit at a young age that they knew more than you do, but they do. Accept it and embrace it.

Lastly, thank you, Ryan, for letting me be your “brother.”