When Andrea Lee and Albane Valenzuela tee it up next week at the Drive On LPGA Championship, they’ll probably feel a little lighter than usual. In many ways, the LPGA restart will feel like the first day of school for the two LPGA rookies. Except that school is in the rearview mirror for these two. Over the COVID-19 break, Lee and Valenzuela became Stanford graduates.
“My mom bought this (graduation) cap off Amazon for $20,” said Lee, from her home in Hermosa Beach, California.
It was always going to be a tall task – juggling the beginning of an LPGA career with college courses. Never mind that it’s Stanford.
Now, however, they can return to their new jobs free from homework assignments and make-up tests.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” said Lee of the June 14 online graduation. Both players snapped photos at the beach. Lee in California and Valenzuela in the Bahamas, where her family now resides.
Lee, a record nine-time winner at Stanford who took the McCormack Medal last year as the world’s leading amateur, said a few family members came over the day before for Korean barbecue and a Stanford-themed cake. On graduation day, she and her parents watched a 30-minute virtual ceremony. It wasn’t anything like she had pictured four years ago.
“Graduation happened and I cried,” she said. “My four years are over. Probably some of the best years of my life, and it just had a sad ending to it.”
Both Lee and Valenzuela earned LPGA status at Q-Series last November and decided to forgo their final semester of college to turn professional. They couldn’t know then that a global pandemic would wipe out spring college golf too.
The lockdown in the Bahamas was so strict, Valenzuela said, that there were times she literally could not step foot on the golf course outside her house.
“You could risk a fine of $20,000,” she said, “or five years in jail.”
When things did open up Valenzuela, a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur finalist, got to work on her game. She also enjoyed games of squash with her brother and a growing passion for yoga.
The 2016 Olympian took three classes in her final quarter, including one on sleep.
Even after Valenzuela’s classes her over, she still found herself stressing out the next day.
“Am I really done?” she asked. “It doesn’t feel real when you’re online.”
The same goes for graduating several time zones away from campus. The teammates hope they can celebrate together sometime later this year.
For now, it will be a reunion of sorts at the Inverness Club, where 135 LPGA pros, including 15 rookies, will gather together to compete for the first time since mid-February. Lee competed twice on the LPGA before coronavirus halted play, taking a share of 62nd at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Valenzuela will make her fourth LPGA start of the year
By: Beth Ann Nichols
Title: What did these rookies do over the LPGA break? They graduated from Stanford
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/07/22/what-did-these-rookies-do-over-the-lpga-break-they-graduated-from-stanford/
Published Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2020 12:00:49 +0000
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