Ekey looking to turn momentum from 2011 into success this season
After a lot of hard work, many lessons learned and a great deal of success, she’s now a 2012 LPGA Tour rookie looking to make some waves. Ekey enters the season as the reigning Symetra Tour Player of the Year after two wins and seven top-10s in a season where everything just clicked for the 25-year-old.
After struggling in 2010 – when she finished 58th on the money list with only one top 10 – on the Symetra Tour, Ekey was consistently successful last year. She made 14 of 16 cuts, finishing in the top 10 in half of those events, was third in scoring average (71.34) and earned $66,412 to claim Player of the Year honors.
Simply put, the two seasons were like night and day.
“The 2010 season was one of those years where I was right there, but wasn’t really ever able to put it together,” said Ekey, who graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Communications Studies. “It was really frustrating, because it was one of those things where I was seeing a lot of improvement in my practice, but it never really translated to the golf course. That was really frustrating for me.”
Instead of letting her frustrations get the better of her, Ekey kept working with her swing coach, V.J. Trolio, and short-game coach Tim Yelverton at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. The practice paid off.
“We worked a lot on simple things,” she said. “We worked a lot on setup and my routine, and that really helped me focus on my process instead of the result. That was really beneficial for me. I don’t really know why there was such a difference (in my seasons), but maybe those two things were part of it.”
Just grinding it out on a professional tour, where she learned how to travel, practice and live on the road, was also a big help, Ekey said.
“It’s hard when you’re traveling every week,” she said. “When you’re playing a bunch of weeks of golf on the road and are staying in different places, it takes a lot out of you mentally, physically and emotionally. You just have to learn how your body reacts to that, and you’ve got to be really careful to take really good care of yourself.”
The Symetra Tour was a valuable proving ground for Ekey’s golf game and a big test of her mental strength and fortitude.
“I think it was awesome,” Ekey said of the Symetra Tour. “I think I learned a lot last year. I learned how to win a golf tournament, and learned maybe how to lose a golf tournament. There were a couple of times where I had an opportunity to win, but didn’t take advantage of it and didn’t win.
“So, I got both ends of it, which I think is awesome, even if I didn’t think it was awesome at the time. I think those experiences are good for your memory bank so you don’t make the same mistakes the next time. The more times you can put yourself in that kind of situation, the better you’re going to get at it.”
She had to excel on a weekly basis for a long period of time, an experience she believes will greatly benefit her on the LPGA Tour.
“Obviously, knowing I played well throughout a whole season is a great feeling to have, and I just want to keep that up. At one point, I played 10 tournaments in 11 weeks, so to know my body, golf game and mental game could withstand that is a really good feeling. It’s something I can learn from and build upon. I want to get better and know I need to get better.”
Qualifying for the LPGA Tour is the realization of a lifelong dream for Ekey.
“I’m just really excited about it, and I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet,” she said. “Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to play on the LPGA, so to be able to do it is a pretty cool thing.”
Ekey feels good about her abilities and her ascension in the pro ranks heading into the 2012 LPGA season.
“I’m really pleased with the progression of my game, and I just hope I can keep progressing this year,” Ekey said. “I’m excited to see what happens. I’m just really blessed.”