It will be 10 years next May; a day she does not remember from a time she will never forget. On Thursday, Germany’s Leonie Harm, in her third season of professional golf on the Ladies European Tour, shot 5 under in the morning wave of the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open. She ate lunch three shots off the lead. Harm knows she caught a break. “Not a breath of wind,” she said of the conditions during her round.
But breaks, good and bad, are nothing new for the 24-year-old. She has come to expect them.
Harm has no memory of the morning in May that changed her life and perspective. As a high school kid she always woke early. The brisk spring mornings in her hometown of Gerlingen, Germany were the only time she had to run. By 6:00 a.m. she was getting ready for school. Afternoons were for practice, evenings for study and bed. Running at 5:00 was part of the regimen for a disciplined girl with lofty goals.
Gerlingen sits about five miles west of Stuttgart, a suburb of 20,000 people with six traffic lights. For ecological reasons, the traffic lights are turned off overnight. They don’t come on until 6:00 a.m.
Taking her normal running route, Harm headed toward home on the main street in town when she crossed at a flashing yellow light. Out of nowhere, she was struck by a drunk driver going 45 miles an hour. Her body shot skyward and pinwheeled like a rag doll. When she landed, Harm had a broken hip, broken ribs, a broken ankle, a collapsed lung, but, more importantly, head trauma.
An army veteran who knew the Harm family was waiting at a bus stop and witnessed the accident. Her training included CPR. She ran to the scene. Harm was bleeding from both ears. Had CPR not been in process, emergency personnel would likely have pronounced her dead at the scene. Protocol dictated that once life-saving measures were taken, they must continue until the patient is in a hospital.
By 6:30, Harm’s parents, Hans-Dieter and Desiree began to worry. Their 15-year-old was nothing if not prompt. That’s when they received a call from police. Their daughter was not expected to survive.
She was put into a medically induced coma and given a one-percent chance to live. A week later, she woke up. Two weeks after that, she was released from the hospital.
“The doctors said they had never seen anything like it,” Harm said a couple of years ago.
The ankle still hurts occasionally, and she can’t hear well out of her right ear. Other than that, she has been fully recovered for years.
But some wounds are harder to heal. In the middle of her sophomore year at the University of Houston, where she was recruited by Stacy Lewis’ husband Gerrod Chadwell, Desiree Harm lost her battle with cancer. Leonie would swap another engagement with a speeding car to get her mother back.
“I honestly didn’t know if she was going to come back (to school),” Chadwell said of Harm back in 2019. “But for her to process it all – overcoming the accident, overcoming losing her best friend all while being one of the best amateur golfers in the world – she’s a bar-setter, and it’s way up there.”
Harm continues to set the bar. She qualified for the LET and opened her professional career in 2020 at the Geoff King Motors Ladies Australian Classic where she made the cut, finished in the top 45 and beat a handful of solid LPGA Tour players. Then, she returned to Germany where in her words, “everything shut down in a matter of days (due to COVID-19).”
She chuckled at what happened next. “I said to my family, I think I’m going to get a job,” Harm said. “They were like, ‘you’ve never had a job in your life.’ Golf was always my full-time job. I did school and golf. I got my degree from Houston (in biochemistry and biophysics), which was quite a grind juggling the class schedule and being a student-athlete. But I hadn’t ever worked a job. Still, I find all the things like genetic engineering and biotech super fascinating.”
The majority shareholder at CureVac, a bioresearch company in Germany that was on the frontline of COVID-19 research and development, was also the president of the Golf Club St. Leon-Rot just south of Heidelberg, the host site of the 2015 Solheim Cup, and the place where Harm practices and plays when she’s home.
“When I spoke with (human resources), they asked when I could start and I said, ‘right away,’” Harm said. “But then they said, ‘you will hear back in three or four weeks.’ That was a surprise because I thought they needed people right away. Then I got a call back an hour later saying, ‘We just heard from your boss and you will be starting next week.’”
Two years later, she now has five top-10 finishes on the LET and her game is improving every week. The 67 at Dundonald Links puts her in position for a possible breakthrough.
“I was proud of myself that I could take advantage of (the calm conditions on Thursday morning) because you still have to make the birdies,” Harm said. “My scorecard was clean, and I had a couple holes where it was a bit of a close call and had to make a smart decision.”
Because the weather is always so fickle in Ayrshire, Harm is anticipating a different day on Friday.
“I used to really enjoy playing in wind because I had like very low spin irons and I would punch it around all the time, and I used to do well in windy conditions,” Harm said. “However, now, I've got a bit of a different set of clubs and I lose a lot of distance into the wind. I just hope I still get to the greens. But we'll see. We'll just take it as it comes.”
That last sentence sums up links golf. It also encapsulates Leonie Harm’s attitude and perspective on life.