If I had given it a moment’s thought, I might not have made it. When you ever sit down and ponder life in North Dakota (if my square state between Minnesota and Montana ever enters your mind at all) the last sport that pops to mind is golf. Maybe quail hunting or ice fishing, calf roping or barrel racing, indoor pickleball or cross-country skiing – anything but a warm weather, green grass, outdoor sport normally played in short sleeves. Don’t get me wrong, my state is beautiful. The colors of a summer sunrise on the plains, the jaw-dropping splendor of the badlands, the glistening waters of Lake Sakakawea, and the friendly and incessantly polite people make it one of the greatest places to grow up and live. But if I had thought about my future life as a professional golfer back when I was a kid, I might have listened to naysayers who said, “You live in North Dakota? There’s no way you can make it on the LPGA Tour.”
Thankfully, that’s not how the game came to me. My dad Mark Anderson introduced my older brother Nathan and me to golf when I was two years old. The game was a fun, family activity that no one took too seriously until Nathan started competing in local junior tournaments at age eight. I saw him and said, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ We pushed each other and supported each other. I began winning junior events but never focused on the other players or even the golf courses. I always chased my mythical goal of perfection.
Then in 2008, I qualified and made it to match play in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship. That was the first time I had succeeded on a national stage, and it was a huge confidence boost. A year later, I became a USGA champion, winning the Girls Junior at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey.
I stayed near home to go to school at North Dakota State, where I continued to focus on process, trying to get a little better every day and not lose sight of the reason I loved golf. That allowed me to collect a good number of individual titles at college tournaments. But it wasn’t until reporters and photographers from Sports Illustrated showed up in Fargo my junior year that I realized what I was doing. Someone at the magazine figured out that the all-time record for individual college victories was 17, held by Juli Inkster. I was on the cusp of breaking that, which I did my senior year. By the time I graduated, I held the record for most individual wins in NCAA history with 20.