It doesn’t matter if it’s the PGA Tour, Champions Tour or LPGA Tour. It’s the same story each time: qualifying school is a gut wrencher with high pressure and so much at stake.
Emily Talley experienced that stress and her nerves were put to the test when she arrived in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the first stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament in September. She remembered questioning her game and her chances, saying, “I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how I’m hitting the ball. You’re thinking, this is a huge thing.”
But upon looking around and examining the Champions Course at LPGA International and the field of players, Talley told herself, “I can do this. I can play with these girls.”
Talley, a Napa resident who played golf at Justin-Siena High School and the University of Colorado, has the confidence and the game and the desire to elevate her name as a professional.
She tied for 30th, shooting 72-70-72-75 — 289. She was among 61 players who advanced to the second stage of qualifying.
“The first stage was probably the most intense for me,” she said.
In October, Talley tied for 28th during stage two of qualifying on the Bobcat and Panther Courses at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. She had rounds of 69, 73, 71 and 77 for a 2-over-par 290 total.
In December, she tied for 59th at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, which was held at LPGA International’s Champions & Legends Courses. She had rounds of 74, 74, 73, 72 and 71 for a 4-over-par 364 total in the 90-hole tournament. Twenty-eight players were awarded membership on the LPGA Tour for 2013. Talley earned playing status on the Symetra Tour, the official developmental golf tour of the LPGA Tour.
“It was a phenomenal experience and definitely was very stressful,” Talley, 22, said after a practice round at Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course last week. “I was nervous by third stage, but I think by third stage I wanted it really badly. I was thinking, I got all this way, I don’t want to miss it now. I don’t want to miss that final cut now. The competition at that level is just so fierce.”
2012 a big year
Last year was big in so many ways for Talley, who also plays and practices at Napa Valley Country Club.
In May, she was named by the National Golf Coaches Association as an honorable mention All-American at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships. Talley concluded her Colorado career with a 74 at the Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn., to finish tied for 38th at 9-over par 297. She was the Buffaloes’ top finisher.
“It was one of the most proud moments of mine to help the team to nationals for the first time ever,” Talley said. “Then graduating college and the ride I went on throughout the summer and fall, it was just amazing.”
In June, she was named honorable mention All-America by GolfWeek. She won an amateur event, the Norgescup at Notteroy in Borgheim, Norway, shooting 75-72 — 147.
In July, she won the 17th annual California Women’s Championship, shooting a 2-over-par 218 total with rounds of 75, 72 and 71 to capture the title by nine strokes at the Chardonnay Golf Club. She went wire-to-wire to win.
In August, she turned pro and Monday-qualified for the CN Canadian Open, a $2 million LPGA Tour event, at the Vancouver Golf Club at Coquitlam, British Columbia. Talley shot a 1-under-par 71 in the CN Canadian Women’s Open Qualifier at Morgan Creek Golf Course in South Surrey, B.C. She finished fourth and secured one of the four spots by winning a playoff. She missed the cut by four strokes in her first pro event, carding a two-day total of 151.
“The players on the LPGA right now, a lot of them went through Symetra,” she said. “They worked their way up. They paid their dues. And that’s exactly how I think it would help my confidence and it would help my experience, too. I feel like a year on the Symetra Tour will be so good for my confidence and so good for my experience.”
The goal, Talley said, is to play on the LPGA Tour. It’s the big leagues of women’s golf, featuring Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, Lexi Thompson, Morgan Pressel, Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome, just to name a few of the stars.
“I think that would be such an accomplishment,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard to get there. Once you get there, it’s going to be really hard to stick with it and stay there and maintain that on the money list, so you don’t have to go back to Q-school.”
Talley will play in Cactus Tour events over the winter. It’s a women’s pro tour based in Phoenix. The events, which are played in the Phoenix area and Las Vegas area, provide a payout to 50 percent of the field.
She will travel in her car to the different Cactus Tour and Symetra Tour events around the country.
“It will be fun, really,” she said. “I’m going to see the United States. I’m going to see a lot of stuff.”
She earned her first paycheck as a pro with a 10th-place finish at the Arizona Open in November.
CU assistant coach Brent Franklin has helped Talley go through a swing change in Boudler, Colo. The changes are to the placement of her right elbow on her backswing and working to generate more club-head speed.
“I am proud that I’m able to make this change and I know it’s going to be good, really good for my game,” she said.
Very good career at CU
Talley had a very good career at CU, finishing her final season of collegiate golf in the Golfweek rankings at No. 46. She holds many of CU’s career records, and her senior season stroke average of 73.97 is the fourth best in program history. Talley finished her final season for the Buffaloes with two top-5 finishes, four top-10s and eight top-20s. She placed ninth at the Pac-12 Championships.
“It was a great final semester of college followed by a really awesome summer and fall,” said Talley, a communications major and history minor. “Making my pro debut and getting to the final stage of Q School the first time around was more than I could’ve asked for. Helping CU make it to nationals for the first time ever, graduating college and winning my first two amateur tournaments, Monday qualifying for my first LPGA. It was an amazing year.
“I’m really excited for my rookie year on the Symetra. After the last few months, my goals and aspirations are on a new level. I’m moving forward.”
In 2010, she was the CU Female Athlete of the Year, the Buffaloes’ MVP and was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament team, Second-Team Academic All-Big 12, and was the Big 12 Golfer of the Month.
In 2009, she was CU’s Most Valuable Player and was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team.