It has been 54 weeks. But it feels like five years.
Last October, right before Halloween, right after her 28th birthday, Ally Ewing became a first-time winner on the LPGA Tour, holding off a charging Danielle Kang and long-hitting Bianca Pagdanganan to win the Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia. Her parents, Jamie and Angie, were there and made no attempt to hide their tears while boat horns blew on the lake in celebration. It was a great moment and memory. It also transformed the trajectory of a career.
Two weeks after the win in Georgia, Ewing put together another tremendous week to finish runner-up at the first Pelican Women’s Championship presented by Konica Minolta and Raymond James. And in May of 2021, she won again, this time at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play hosted by Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. That came after a T7 at the ANA Inspiration where Ewing played herself into the final twosome on Sunday.
To say that the last year has been career-changing is not an overstatement. The now 29-year-old is a multiple winner, two-time U.S. Solheim Cup team member and a mentor and leader among her peers.
“I think we as players do so much, put in so much work to accomplish the goal to win, and sometimes we get to a week and we play our best, but our best is not good enough that week,” Ewing said in a moment of reflection before the start of this Pelican Women’s Championship. “To actually feel yourself in a winner's circle and to see all the hard work pay off and see a win happen, it just instills a little bit more confidence. If you're back in contention (later), it calms your nerves. I've been here before and can build off the past, a past win or a past experience to calm yourself and try to rise to that occasion again.”
Ewing is confident in her confidence. She is self-aware and knows what that maiden win meant.
“I think until you win you kind of trust what you're doing but you're also still searching,” she said. “Is there something I'm missing? Is there something I'm not doing on a weekly basis that is not getting me to that point? Me now versus me 54 weeks ago, it's just kind of settling into who I am as a golfer and person and just trusting that everything I do is good enough to win out here, just going back and relying on all the things I've done in years past with my coaches and knowing that people have poured in a lot of support. Knowing all that led me to where I am today and there is nothing I have to change.”
She has also proved that she can win in different formats. The Bank of Hope Match Play required unrelenting focus. Lose one match and your week was done. But time after time, Ewing gutted out wins in the searing desert heat.
“Vegas was so different,” she said. “Even though it's an LPGA win, it's a match play tournament, so you don't have to have your best for 72 holes. You just have to have your better-than-the-other-player for 18 holes. I just love that competitive aspect of the Bank of Hope Match Play, being able to go head-to-head with the best players in the world. Just trying to find that mental frame to compete at the highest level against an opponent for 18 holes or however many holes you play.
“But the confidence I had in already getting a win back at the Drive On certainly helped me, even though it was a different format. It helped calm my nerves and realize I've been in this moment, it's just a little bit different.”
She has also performed on the biggest stage in women’s golf, the Solheim Cup, where thousands follow your every step and millions watch you on television with a rooting interest, either for or against your every shot.
“Solheim definitely takes a lot out of you because you're putting your best out there more than for just yourself,” Ewing said. “You're trying to represent your country the best you can. A week like that is full of a lot of different things, which are great, but it's something that, now that I've been a part of a couple, I want to be a part of a winning one.
“It's still a drive for me to play on more teams. Even though it is one of the most exhausting weeks of the year, it's unlike anything that you play on the LPGA Tour. It's worth it. But it is a tiring week.”
She has had plenty of rest now, last playing in New Jersey three weeks ago. And she feels as though she has an advantage, not just having played well at Pelican Golf Club in the past, but also understanding the vagaries of Bermuda grass. But one thing she still works to manage are her expectations.
“I've always been the type of player that's really hard on themselves,” she said. “I have such this perfectionist type of (personality), wanting to make sure I'm doing everything correct. Sometimes I gauge things in a perfectionist mindset and don't give myself slack and credit when I'm doing something really well.
“It's just managing the expectation, really. I think we all strive to be the best. You feel like there is not a lot of room for error playing on this tour. But it's a game unlike any other. You could go out and shoot 67 and it is not anything close to your best. But then you can go out and shoot 72 and you've hit 18 greens and you've two-putted everything and you want to pull your hair out.
“It's realizing you can live in both worlds and it doesn't necessarily take your best to shoot a really good score, even though we want to strive to be our best every single day.”