The last time I was writing this blog, I was busy preparing for the new season. Two events later and I’d just won on the LPGA Tour for the very first time. Maybe I need to write more often?!
It’s hard to know where to even start with this one, it’s still all so surreal. You hope moments like winning the Drive On Championship are going to happen but you never really know until they do.
My phone was hopping for at least a week with messages from everyone from The President, to Solheim Captain Suzann Pettersen, to Rachel Blackmore. When I managed to sit down and absorb some of the messages and tweets that were flooding in, I noticed so many people saying things like ‘it was only a matter of time’, and ‘it was inevitable’.
It was fantastic to see a lot of people getting so much joy from the win but nothing is inevitable, especially in sport. I can’t explain how tough it is to win on the LPGA Tour. The talent pool is so deep and even with all the work that goes on behind the scenes, so much has to go right for you on the day.
I came close a few times last year but the stars definitely aligned for me at the Drive On. It was Mum’s birthday on the Sunday and I did think it would be a nice present for her, but you’re so in the zone that you can’t allow for distractions. The timing was extra special though because my Granny, Mum’s mother, passed away recently. Sadly she never got to see me win. She was sick for a long time. She wasn’t really conscious around the Solheim Cup but she had the best seat in the house for the Drive On!
It was nice for Mum to have everyone around, too. It would’ve been a tough birthday for her, the first one without Granny, so that made it a bit more upbeat than it would have been otherwise.
I was actually jealous of everyone back home celebrating without me. It was a weird one. There’s the whole commotion when you win, getting sprayed with champagne on the 18th green, Dermot face-timing home, ringing Lisa, Mum and Dad, seeing everyone in the house. Then you have all the media stuff so it really is all go, go, go, until suddenly it’s done, and you’re the only one left. I guess the excitement from home balanced out the calmness and there have been plenty of celebrations since.
For Lisa, it was a little bittersweet. She was travelling so much with me last year and I came close a couple of times but didn’t quite get it done. Hopefully she’ll be at the next one!
Sharing the moment with those who helped make it happen was probably the sweetest thing of all though. The amount of effort people have put into this over the past fifteen or so years. Even chatting to Shane [O’Grady – coach], a lot of people probably don’t realise the low points and the disappointments that we’ve had along the way. Seeing the trophy and having that proof that ‘yes, this did happen’, was a hard feeling to top.
The trophy actually beat me home in the end, but everywhere I went with it, it was great to see the positive reaction. I’m very fortunate to have a big team around me – Modest! Golf, KPMG, Davy, Kingspan, Kastus, PING, PUMA – and visiting the Kinetica Sports offices with the trophy was very satisfying. Golf is all about fine margins, winning even more so, and since partnering with Kinetica, I’ve been steadily eking out little improvements and gains here or there that’s made a huge difference to my success on the golf course.
Of course, with that success comes added responsibility off the fairway, and it’s been a whirlwind few weeks since the win. When you’re doing well, everyone wants a piece of you and anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I’ve never been particularly comfortable with being the centre of attention. Even after being on the Late Late Show, I don’t think that’s ever going to change!
I still find it strange when people ask for my autograph, or stop me in an airport. Even when I’m on the range with Shane in Blackbush and a member pops their head into the bay to say well done, it takes some getting used to, but it’s something I’ll always appreciate. Irish people are great to rally around their sportspeople so it’s nice that I was able to give them something to cheer about this time.
People often ask me how I get away from it all. It can be quite odd being on your phone and seeing your name pop up randomly and sometimes it can get overwhelming. I’m very lucky to live where I do, by the water at Lake Nona. I love spending time on the Lake. You can’t really bring your phone with you because the signal’s not great so it’s the perfect place to escape.
Over the next few weeks I’ll likely not have to worry about anonymity. The Tour is off to Singapore and Thailand, two places I’ve never been. (Leona finished T13 in Singapore) By all accounts, they’re going to be like Tokyo last year. Hot and humid, and apparently there’ll be bugs as well, but I’m not complaining.
I’m preparing as well as I can here, trying to simulate the environment with hot baths and the likes, but it’s hard to know what to expect. Having Kinetica in my corner really helps at times like this. I’ll pack a lot of their dried stuff, energy bars and powders, whey protein and oat gain. Don’t get me wrong, the food could be great, but there might be some things you’re just not used to and you don’t want to get sick.
I’m hoping we have a bit of downtime. We played in Korea last year but it was quite a strict bubble. We’re hoping it’s not quite as tight this time around because Singapore seems like such a cool, modern place and I’d love to explore a bit.
As for Thailand, I love Thai food, it’s one of my favourite foods. It’ll be interesting to see the difference between what I think Thai food is and what Thai food actually is!
But at the same time, we have to be careful because we’re tested every day so the last thing you’d want is to test positive and have to quarantine before the first major of the year at the Chevron at the end of March.
So yeah, it’s all systems go. We have one win in the books but my caddie Dermot and I know the season is only getting started. Yes, it was incredibly satisfying to win but at the same time, I want to win again, and I want to win as many times as I can.
That’s why you play, that’s why you practice. You want to be in contention as much as you can. You live for those big moments.
Obviously being the first to win on the LPGA Tour from Ireland makes me very proud. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even have a player on the LPGA. Just getting on the Tour seemed impossible, but once we got there, we were never going to be satisfied just making up the numbers. If I can win on the LPGA Tour, there’s no reason why anybody else can’t too.
Thanks to everyone for all the kind wishes over the past few weeks, and especially those who have supported me long before the dream became a reality.
Here’s to many more Irish winners on the LPGA Tour in the future.
Listen to this week’s Irish Golfer Podcast