It’s the middle of exam season for colleges across the board with many students looking to balance their time between academic studies and outside activities. Lauren Walsh is deep in the midst of a hectic schedule of golf and examinations, and seldom has she had the chance to sit back and reflect on what has been an incredible few weeks for the Wake Forest student.
That brief period for contemplation came while she was waiting to board a plane to Pennsylvania on Friday morning en route to a Curtis Cup practice round at Merion Golf Club.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for the Castlewarden native who sat a Monday exam before heading to Pinehurst for a US Women’s Open Qualifier on Tuesday where she ultimately fell short of the magic number at Mid Pines.
Still, Walsh has been in fine form after playing a pivotal role as Wake Forest University won their second ACC Championship in four years a fortnight ago. The Kildare golfer held the winning putt to queue wild celebrations on the 18th green as the Deacs avenged a chastening semi-final defeat to Florida State University twelve months ago.
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Walsh. “Florida State had beaten us last year in the semi-final so we were really gunning to get out and go all the way this year. We all worked hard throughout the offseason and we had been talking about the ACC Championship and the Nationals for a long time so to get out there and start competing was good.
“We played well as a team and all played our part. We all love match play too so it was nice to get a taste of that.”
In truth, halfway through the five matches, it looked like it was going to be another painful loss for the Deacs but the North Carolina college refused to go down and Walsh drained a 55-foot putt to beat her opponent Alice Hodge 1UP and secure a dramatic victory, although she was not aware that destiny was in her hands at the time!
“At the time I didn’t even know because my coaches told me that the girl in match five had gone 1UP and then my ball is on the green and it’s 55-feet and I thought it was a little firm when I hit it and then when it was five feet out I knew it would take the break and I thought it had a chance and then yeah it dropped and everybody went nuts. It was pretty cool.
“I just thought about two-putting it and taking it to extra holes because we were all-square.
“Once my opponent missed her putt from 40-feet my teammate Rachel ran out and said we had won so it was very exciting. I threw my putter to the side and started sprinting down the fairway to my teammates. A special week and a week we will never forget,” said Walsh who had her family tuning into the action via a livestream back in Kildare.
“My family were able to stream it which was a lot of fun so I was glad they got to watch each shot. They got to see the final putt too which was brilliant and they are huge supporters of mine.
“It was great to have them over here for Augusta and to have that support in the middle of the long season we have is great. My dad and sister will be over for the Curtis Cup, they are the best. I couldn’t do what I do without them.”
It was an Irish double for Wake Forest as Mark Power more than played his part in helping the men’s team secure their ACC Championship as the Deacs created history holding both titles for the first time.
While Walsh was in the thick of the action the week before, she was probably more nervous watching her male counterparts try to close out their matches on the television.
“It’s the first time in Wake Forest’s history that both the men’s and women’s teams have won the ACC Championship so we were very excited for the guys,” she said.
“We were watching it on TV and we were all so nervous. I was delighted for Mark and the guys, they have worked as hard as us and to see it come together for them and get it over the line in such a big championship was great.
“Our two teams are close we see them in practice most days and there is always someone there to putt or chip around with, so we see them a lot.
“They came back saying they were so nervous watching Alex finish up the last match and we were the same way watching it on TV.”
The Irish international is undoubtedly riding the crest of a wave and she is set to make her second successive appearance for Great Britain and Ireland in this summer’s Curtis Cup at Merion where she will be looking to help avenge another loss against the USA where she will come up against some familiar faces again.
“Very excited about Curtis Cup. I have only heard wonderful things about Merion it’s supposed to be very nice and I am lucky to have the opportunity to play there. We are heading up this weekend to get some practice in and learn the course before we step on-site in June.
“We have a great team with six of the eight players returning so we have that experience we learned from last year. We are fired up after not getting it over the line last year. It will be a different experience playing on US soil.”
With dates at Merion and Pinehurst in the diary, one can only marvel at the golf courses the 21-year-old will be teeing it up at but she has already walked the fairways on arguably the greatest golfing canvas there is at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in March.
Despite missing out on the cut to play a competitive round at Augusta National, Walsh did play a practice round at the iconic venue and had an unbelievable experience taking in all the pink azaleas with her father, and coach Shane O’Grady.
Hopefully it won’t be her one and only foray around Amen Corner!
“It was absolutely incredible,” she explained. “I was disappointed to miss the playoff by one. It was a very special week. There is no blade of grass out of place, it is true what people say. To be there with my dad and have my coach Shane [O’Grady] watching was very cool for both me and them.
“The goal is to get back there next year it was a very cool tournament.
“Champions Retreat was very difficult the first two days they had just re-done the greens and they were very firm and I don’t have a problem with stopping my ball normally and it was difficult for me.
“Just to get the chance to play Augusta National was very cool and it is an experience I won’t forget.”
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