Albane Valenzuela turned professional in November of 2019 with grand ambitions. She never expected what happened in 2020.
First, a nerve-related injury prevented her from practicing. Next, COVID-19 put a halt to her rookie year. Then last November, her appendix nearly ruptured, requiring emergency surgery and forcing the clubs away yet again. Finally, weeks before LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik, the 23-year-old caught the coronavirus.
None of it has held her back, though. The Stanford University graduate sits in a tie for third at 7-under par overall with 18 holes to play at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.
“I spent a lot of time in bed for the past five months,” said Valenzuela with a smile, emblematic of her positive attitude and resilience.
Six birdies highlighted a bogey-free third round, but Valenzuela found the day a memorable one for another reason. She bested her younger brother’s score of 68 by two strokes, which he shot for a U.S. Juniors tournament in 2018.
“This is a pretty special place for me. I caddied for my brother here when he qualified for U.S. Juniors and he shot 68 and won in a playoff with a birdie,” said Valenzuela. “This entire week he was like, ‘You just have to beat my score.’ So we had this family competition going. I'm kind of happy I beat him.”