Maddi Caldwell-Young (Milton, Georgia) may be an unfamiliar name at the top of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage II leaderboard after a 6-under 66 in round two But come Sunday, she’s got the potential to be unforgettable. The former Kennesaw State Owl left college a semester early to start preparing for professional golf and with a wrist injury and the pandemic limiting her ability to compete, Caldwell-Young came to Plantation Golf & Country Club not having played much golf over the past two years. The 24-year-old fought her way into this week’s field at Stage I, playing her way in despite contracting COVID-19 a few weeks before the event. Plus, the funds to support her career have been lacking so Caldwell-Young has had to get creative to prepare herself for this level of competition.
“With COVID and I had a wrist injury, I haven't played a lot in the last two years, so I feel like I'm just starting to peak now,” she said. “I actually had COVID right before Stage I so I didn't practice much. I played just well enough to get through really. I mean, I tied 60-something, so it wasn't terrible. I haven't played a lot. I don't have a lot of money to play, so I've just been playing in what I can. I’ve played in a few LPGA Monday (qualifiers) and a U.S. Open qualifier, just trying to stay local, but this is really it.”
Another Caldwell family member can relate to the grind that is pro golf. Brother Zach teed it up this week at Stage II of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School — he missed out on the Final Stage by four shots — and the camaraderie the two share in the chasing of their mutual dream is something that Maddi is grateful for.
“I've learned so much from him,” said Caldwell-Young. “He started like three or four years before I did, and we practice together as much as we can whenever we're both in town. It's a fun little rivalry that we have, so it's good. It's been a lot of fun practicing with him.”
She also has her husband, Tyler, in Venice rooting her on, although he’s a bit of a nervous Nelly watching his wife play golf. The two were married last October and will celebrate their first anniversary this Sunday, the 24th, a fitting end to what is shaping up to be a career-defining week for Caldwell-Young.
“He has to put on podcasts just so he can stay calm and listen to things other than golf,” she said. “He's actually been a lot more calm this week than Stage I, so that's good. It would be a good present for him (if I advance), right? I didn't get anything for him.”
With that celebration and a berth in Q-Series on her mind, Caldwell-Young looks ahead to the weekend and is continuing to learn about herself and her game, realizing just how good of a player she has the potential to become.
“I feel like as much as I try to grow and develop my game, I'm just now finding out how good I can be, and I want to be as good as I possibly can,” she said. “As much as I play conservative, I play aggressively conservative. I want to go out and do what I can when I can. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm not going to focus on where I'm at. I'm just going to focus on every shot as it comes.”