Playing in the Dubai Ladies Masters last week was an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I want to thank the sponsors of the event and everyone who made my experience so rewarding. The trip was not without some growing pains, however, and I learned some very valuable lessons playing in my first professional tour event.
This may sound silly, but I learned never to check my phone right before teeing off. Nothing is more important than the round you are about play, so the messages can wait. Golf is hard enough, so I'm going to work on clearing my mind of outside influences once I arrive at the course.
I learned that I want to continue pursuing a career in golf. I am fully aware that my presence in the field wasn’t based on just my playing ability. I’m a good golfer -- good enough to play at San Diego State, and good enough that my goal is still to make it on the LPGA Tour. But I’m not there yet. So when the tournament organizers called me in July saying they were following me on Instagram and that I was someone who could help bring attention to the game through their tournament in Dubai, I knew this was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. But I also knew that my game wasn’t quite ready because I had just turned pro and hadn’t even played in a professional tournament yet. In college, my time was split between schoolwork and golf, but now I am completely dedicated to working as hard as I can to make it on tour. I have always been known as an extremely hard worker, which I attribute in part to my background as a gymnast.
I learned that social media will continue to have a huge impact on the game of golf. I knew people would be wondering why I was even in Dubai, but I wasn’t remotely prepared for the level of interest it created. Social media is a powerful tool that enables people to express their personal opinions, and I, for one, will continue to embrace any type of communication that draws people to the game. So although I decided to accept the invitation for playing experience, I also understood that any media exposure is good for golf in the general. I'm also grateful that so many people have taken such interest in me. It's because of them that I was given the chance to play in Dubai, so naturally, I wanted to share my experience and show them what it takes to make it on tour.
What else did I learn? I learned that people are going to say what they want to say about me, and I need to get better at not taking negative comments so personally. I have to remind myself that people only know what they read about me in the media.
I know this seems impossible, but I am actually a very shy person and all of this is overwhelming for me. Seriously, I started posting on Instagram for fun, and even when I started receiving all this attention, that's all it's really ever been. It’s never been about fame. It all just kind of happened. Having said that, I’m obviously fortunate that people enjoy what I post, and it has led to opportunities for me to be able to fund my golf, but for me it’s still just a means to an end. Golf is an expensive sport, and this is my way of helping to pay for it. But the goal is still to make it as a player. Anyone who has ever picked up a golf club knows that golf is really, really hard. And these women who play for a living? They’re really, really good.