Alisa Rodriguez is one of the nine teaching and club professionals participating this week in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club. But the 27-year-old from El Paso, Texas, is also the only one combining golf instruction to juniors with professional competition in the Epson Tour on her road to her second major.
“I played really well at the LPGA Qualifying School to get status on the Epson. I feel like it helped me prepare for this tournament a lot more compared with last year,” said Rodriguez, who debuted in the majors at the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA in Atlanta, where neither Alisa nor the other eight pros in the field made the cut.
Rodriguez got a spot for this week at Congressional Country Club after winning the LPGA Professionals National Championship by 2 shots in July of 2021. Three months later she made it to the second stage of LPGA Qualifying School to get her Epson Tour Card. And in November of that year, she had hand surgery.
“It was not the greatest start, and it was definitively rough,” said Rodriguez, who missed the cut on her first five Epson Tour events and then recently finished T54 in Garden City, Kansas, and 69 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I feel I am playing a lot better golf than I did at the beginning of the year. I am playing a lot smarter versus trying to be aggressive off the tee.”
She considers herself a late bloomer in golf. “It was always softball when I was growing up and then I got the golf bug when I started playing in high school,” said Rodriguez, who went on to play golf at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), where she was the Miner’s MVP as a junior.
Another alumnae of UTEP, Alisa’s dad, Art Rodriguez, a retired software engineer, has become her coach, occasional caddie, cook, and driver on tour. “For the first Epson Tour event, he drove from Austin to Florida, and I flew so I would not miss too many days teaching,” she said. “It is a grind for sure and we try to cut costs.”
Like many other colleagues on the Epson Tour, Alisa supplements her income with her teaching when she is home in Austin and even remote lessons on the road. “Some girls have part time jobs, and they have to answer emails and messages at the end of the day like me. I have some of my kids shooting me texts about their swings.”
One of those kids will be at Congressional Country Club this week. “I have one of my juniors and her dad coming out to see me. She dreams to play golf at a high level. She will be a freshman in high school next year and wants to go to UTEP and play golf,” said Rodriguez regarding the example she is setting on the members of her junior program.
“I love teaching and I love the juniors but playing is definitively my number one priority. I want to give my full or at least have a full shot at playing professionally on the LPGA,” she added, feeling prepared for another opportunity to perform well in a major.
“It is just about playing smart. I am really focusing on the short game and trying to get up and down. This is going to be huge this week,” said Alisa Rodriguez about her strategy for her second KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club.