Elizabeth Nagel is the only Michigan native participating in the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give this week. It’s her fourth appearance and her goals near home are simple. She hopes to make the cut. And why wouldn’t she manage her expectations. A survivor of thyroid cancer – eight years in remission – Nagel has learned to take life one day and one round at a time.
“Knowing the weather forecast, I've definitely tried to be conscious of that,” Nagel said of the stifling heat hitting the Grand Rapids area. “If (I'm) feeling dehydrated or thirsty, it's pretty much too late. There are certain vitamins and things that I can do so I don't get overheated the day before, but I love my sun umbrella. I used to think it was so silly, but I love it.”
Although Nagel hasn't been playing as consistently as she has hoped for recently, going through something as taxing as cancer has given her a different outlook on the game of golf.
"After all I've gone through, I didn't play well last week, and it's like, after the dust kind of settles, you have to look at it and be, it’s golf. It’s my career, and I am passionate about it, and love it. But I've been through so much in my life. If I can handle that, I can conquer anything, right? It taught me to stay patient and take one thing at a time."
Nagel has been playing golf since the age of four, having her father, PGA professional John as her coach throughout her career.
"My dad played kind of on the mini-tours. So, I traveled with him and my mom for a little bit. Then he settled down and took the head pro job and general manager job at Centennial Acres (Golf Club in Sunfield). So that's my family's golf course that he runs and we're part owners of. That's where I grew up. I mean, I was at the golf course every day with my dad running around, driving golf carts, you know, just living the life as a little kid," Nagel said.
"My dad, he still is my swing coach. He teaches me a lot about our golf course, too. He's the only person I've ever seen as a coach. I've been really lucky with that," she added.
The Michigan State alum was born into a family that bleeds green.
"I got recruited to play at a lot of different schools, but I was born and raised a Spartan, so it was a pretty easy choice for me to stay local. I went to my first Spartan hockey game when I was like two weeks old," Nagel said.
She was recruited by the MSU's biggest rival, the University of Michigan, before getting an offer from Michigan State.
"My grandma and grandpa are diehard Spartans; that's where I get it from. And they were like if you go (to Michigan) that's fine, but we're going to wear Spartan gear underneath our Michigan gear," she said.
Nagle said Michigan's golf courses are beautiful, and the state doesn't get enough credit. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko agrees, saying Grand Rapids is one of her favorite cities to visit.
“I think the fact that we have Bentgrass, we take it for granted. The more you travel, playing all different types of goofy grass, and some of these girls are from Florida, where it's kind of like Bermuda, and Bermuda is not great grass. Then (the LPGA players) come here and think it's so plush and nice because the grass is so pure," Nagel said.
Cancer adds perspective to a lot of things. Eight years later, Liz Nagel is happy to be enjoying the beauty of her home state and playing the game she loves for as many days as she can.