One of the most impactful moments of my life came when I was 16 years old. It was just a simple gesture, but it meant the world to me. I was a junior golfer competing for a spot in the Canon Cup (now the Wyndham Cup), a big East vs. West competition and it would have been a huge honor for me to qualify.
I really wanted to make the team and had a great showing at one of the last qualifying events before the teams were picked. I was really close to making the team but unfortunately, I did not.
Before I even had time to get down on myself, a couple of the girls who qualified came over and told me that they wanted me on the team with them.
I couldn't believe it – they really wanted me?
It meant a lot to me, and looking back on it, I can truly appreciate how kind the gesture was, particularly if you take into account that we were just teenage girls at the time.
As a young golfer, I had to battle self-doubt nearly every time I stepped on the course. By showing belief in me, they helped me more than they could ever know.
Now that I've seen everything a golf career has to throw at you, I'm the one who shows belief in the future golfers of the world – and I love it.
Like it is for a lot of golfers, the sport has always been a part of my life. It's funny how I got started, though. I'm an only child, and because my dad spent so much time working, my mom and I wanted to find something we could all do as a family in our free time.
My parents had some experience with golf, so that was our choice. I started off only being able to putt as a kid and basically learned the game backwards, going step by step as I grew up.
Ever since then, all I remember is wanting to play golf. And fortunately, my parents were all-in, too.
When I watched the LPGA and PGA tour on TV, I saw myself being in that same position one day.
Being a professional always was the end goal, but that isn't to say there weren't some speed bumps along the way.
Because golf is such a mental game, it was a slow journey for me to build up my self-confidence.
My belief started to pick up in high school when I won the first AJGA event that I ever played in, and of course, when I played in the Canon Cup.
And then in college, I made it to NCAAs my senior year, which was so cool because it was very close to where I grew up in Maryland.
Each of those moments played a pivotal role because they motivated me and pushed me to keep going and accomplish my dreams.
For me, it was a lot about believing in myself, and without those experiences, well, I probably wouldn't have.
As I reflect on it all, I'm just so proud that I really did it — I became a professional golfer.
But once that chapter began, I realized that life on the road in pro golf is tough. You technically go from traveling with a team in college to being on your own as a professional. I didn't have a lot of sponsors either, so even with my parents' help, I still had to worry about how I would pay for things.
Life was great, and I cherished all the friendships I made and the courses I got to play on.
However, all the ups and downs just kind of wore me down.
I loved the game so much, but it was taxing.
It was time for a new challenge.
Turning Into a Teacher
Even though I grew up with golf and poured everything I had into the sport, I always thought I'd move on eventually. But life had other plans for me, and I'm not upset about it.
A coaching opportunity came up at the University of North Florida, and I was hooked right away.
I was able to combine working in an office with being on a course, and in the last two years, I've started teaching golf full time at San Jose Country Club.
Truly, nothing compares to being a mentor for young golfers. I remember the feelings of uncertainty and competitiveness that drove me years ago, and I'm able to help my students conquer some of the same challenges that I once faced.
Teaching has given me an outlet to continue my passion for golf, but I won't lie – of course I miss being out there on the course, too.
When it's just me, the ball, and my club, there's nothing like it.
Achieving my dreams
That's why it means so much to me that I still get to play at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
Competing with the top players in the world is amazing, and it pushes me to keep improving personally. Plus, last year's tournament was close to home, so I was blessed to have some friends come out and watch me play.
When I noticed my family and friends in the crowd, it just put it all into perspective, you know?
And I can't wait to go back out there for a fourth time in my career this year.
Golf has always been packed with highs and lows, just like life itself. But these last few years are some of my favorite ones.
I often think back to my teenage self and everything I wanted to accomplish in golf. As I prepare for another big event, I can't help but smile.
After all, I really did it!