Castlewarden’s Lauren Walsh will make her professional debut on the LPGA Tour at this week’s Dana Open after enjoying the fairy-tale ending to her Wake Forest career with victory at the National Championship in Arizona.
A player for the big moment, Walsh, much like she did a year ago in the 2022 ACC Championship triumph, captured the title-winning point as the Deacs ran out 3-1 winners over USC.
“It was a dream come true, just so special,” Walsh says.
“It took a long time to sink in. My phone had been blowing up but it’s been so nice seeing all the support. I’ve absolutely loved my four years at Wake Forest. I’ve loved being a part of the team. From my teammates to the coaches, it’s been such an incredible part of my life and I couldn’t ask for more.”
A two-time Curtis Cup player, Walsh signed off on her amateur career with one more Arnold Palmer Cup cap before the next chapter in the pro ranks beckoned.
The first milestone will be ticked off this week after Walsh was nominated by Wake Forest to compete at the LPGA Tour’s Dana Open where she will officially make her pro debut on the top circuit in women’s golf.
“It’s so exciting to have that set in the calendar,” Walsh says.
“People have been asking me for weeks, ‘when are you turning pro, when are you turning pro?’, so it’s nice to finally have that start.”
The transition to the pro ranks has already been made a lot less daunting for Walsh who is one of four recipients of the ANNIKA Development Programme; the legendary Sorenstam’s graduate programme inviting the Castlewarden woman to be one of the initiative’s inaugural ambassadors.
“As part of the programme we get housing and a golf course to practice at in Aiken South Carolina so that’s amazing,” says Walsh.
“I’ll always have my home in Ireland but I’ve so many friends from Wake in America and I can still use the facilities at the University too so it’s great to have that access.
“Old Barnwell is the golf course at Aiken. It’s brand new, only opening this September. The programme provides some financial support as well so it’s a great opportunity that I’m really grateful for.”
After finishing college, no doubt Walsh’s parents always envisioned their girl coming home. However, one scenario that always threatened such reunions was the possibility of turning pro and chasing the LPGA dream.
Walsh’s performances mean that dream could very well become a reality, and her support system in Ireland, heavy hearted or otherwise, are backing Lauren to go all the way.
“My family have been so supportive since the very beginning,” Walsh says.
“They’ve been there all the way up through the ranks and they know this next step will take me around the world so I’ll be over and back a lot. That’s just part of the journey but they’re just as excited as I am about where this all could lead.”
Walsh will always have her roots in Ireland and she continues to work with swing-coach Shane O’Grady even when the Atlantic divides them. Walsh intends to spend most of the summer back home, barring an extra special LPGA debut, before sitting the toughest examination in golf at Q-School where Walsh will learn her fate for next year.
In the meantime, Lauren intends to stick with the winning formula that has seen her elevate her game to be capable of mixing it with the very best.
“Shane’s overseen a lot of players who’ve transition to the pro ranks and my coaches at Wake have done the same,” Walsh says.
“They all say the same thing, that I’ve played a lot of great golf at Wake Forest and the reason I’ve done a lot of that is because of the things I do day-in, day-out with my coaches, with the clubs I use – I’ve developed a really great relationship with PING.
“I don’t plan on changing any of that. I’m excited to keep doing what I’m doing to make it. I’ve competed at the highest level in college and these girls are the ones who will be on tour over the next couple of years.
“I’ve had some success here so it’s nice to know my game’s comparable to what’s out there. That gives me the confidence to know that what I’m doing is good enough.”
Leona’s advice to Lauren:
“The one thing Paul McGinley told me was not to change my clubs and I’d probably say the same thing to her. I think she’s PING like me and they’ve obviously been working well for her. So I suppose, try not to change too many things. She’ll probably have people offering her advice and opinions but stick to your guns for a bit and figure out what works well for you. You see it out here on tour every week – everyone has a different way of doing it and it’s about figuring out what’s best for you. She has Q-School coming up and that’ll probably be her main focus of getting her tour card and hopefully we’ll see Lauren playing out here soon.”