Before we begin, The Tailgate Society would like to extend our thoughts, prayers, and condolences to the family and friends of Celia Barquin Arozamena who was tragically killed while practicing at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa on September 17, 2018. The reigning Big 12 Women’s Champion and Iowa State University’s Female Student Athlete of the Year was well on her way to a career in professional golf (she’d recently qualified for Stage II of LPGA Q-School), and will always be remembered for her infectious smile and bubbly personality.
Fittingly, golf is a four letter word.
Somehow, golf can be both beautiful in its simplicity, yet cruel in its complexities. It can bring you some of life’s closest relationships, yet leave you feeling as lonely as ever. Those who chase the dream of playing competitively for a living are only guaranteed one thing – redlining both ends of the emotional spectrum.
In this miniseries, I’ll bring you the stories of a few women and men chasing the dream of making golf’s top tours, in an effort to show what it’s really like to wade in the waters of professional golf.
If you were asked to name your favorite par-3 in golf, what would you say? The 17th at TPC Sawgrass? 12th at Augusta? 9th at Turnberry? 7th at Pebble Beach, perhaps?
Everyone has their favorite, but there’s little argument that the most electric and aptly nicknamed “loudest hole in golf” is the 16th at the TPC Scottsdale.
Dream with me. On the day you decide to give up your amateur status and turn professional, you get to play TPC Scottsdale, just days after the conclusion of the Waste Management Open. The course is still set up as it was for the PGA Professionals. The stadium is still standing on 16. All that’s missing is a few thousand friends. Now imagine that iconic scene is the setting for your first hole-in one.
Electric – and that’s exactly how it played out for Hailey Ostrom.
Hailey is a 24 year-old professional golfer from Bend, Oregon, who moved to Arizona to pursue the dream of playing professional golf. She began playing competitively at the tender age of nine years old under the instruction of her father, who at one point served as President of the Central Oregon Junior Golf Association. Hailey took her game to George Fox University upon graduation from high school, but the idea of playing golf for a living never really crossed her mind until her junior season.
I never imagined I’d ever be good enough to play [golf] professionally. It wasn’t until my junior year of college I realized how much I was improving, and how much I enjoyed putting the work in. Freshman year I couldn’t break 90 during our first week of qualifying. By senior year I was an All-American helping lead my team to Nationals. I knew I was willing to work harder than anyone else, and that’s what it takes to be a professional.
Hailey won four tournaments during her senior season at GFU and decided to pack up her talent, work ethic, and drive, and move to Arizona following her top-20 finish at NCAA DIII National Championships.
This is what I affectionately refer to as the first true test. There are only so many places around the country where you can play and practice year-round, and, thus, the most serious competitors typically pick up and move to golf hotbeds in California, Arizona, Florida, etc. to continue pursuing their dream. Making the Tour requires sacrifice, and first on the sacrificial list is often leaving the friendly confines of home.
That sacrifice was felt immediately. Hailey was used to practicing alone, often arriving early and staying later than official practice hours throughout college, but for the first time she was truly on her own. There was no team offering motivation. No coach to provide drills and tips. She practiced countless hours per day, alone. She created her own practice itineraries, sourced her own motivation, and eventually created her own support system to help propel her career forward.
I would have to push myself to do the work without anyone motivating me to do it for myself. That’s why I created Team Hailey. It helped me feel like no matter what, I still had a team behind me the entire time. I have my coach, Andy Patnou, my trainer, my dad, [and] my college coach who is now my mental coach. I also have my Instagram team that motivates me along the way.
Of course the staples of Team Hailey are her parents and her faith. Her father has all the advice she could ever want or need, and her mom is always there to comfort her through the hard times. As she’s gone off on her own, she’s had to lean more and more on her faith for strength when things get tough.
Talking to God ALWAYS makes me feel better. I talk to Him as if He’s my best friend… I wouldn’t even say it’s a prayer, just a conversation.
Like tennis, golf is typically described as an individual game, but, as the best competitors will tell you, there’s always a team behind them.
Golf has an earned reputation as a boy’s game and, specifically, a wealthy boy’s game. However, 24% of golfers these days are women. That number is even higher away from the actual golf course, with facilities like Topgolf seeing a close to 50/50 split. Opportunities for women in golf have been steadily growing the last few decades, and Hailey encourages young women to be fearless and take advantage of them. When asked if she had any words of advice for young women aspiring to follow in her footsteps, she noted very succinctly, “Don’t be afraid of the boys.”
She put those words to practice, when she competed on the Golf Channel TV Show “Shotmakers.” During this co-ed team competition that took place at Topgolf in Las Vegas, Hailey presented her skills to a national audience and quickly earned her clutch stripes as a member of Team Ringers.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) April 17, 2018
She honed her gloveless style and patented toetap over countless hours at the driving range and golf course. Hours which come at a premium when you don’t belong to a private club. Having never been a private club member, Hailey worked at golf courses her entire life to earn her playing privileges and continues to do so in Arizona. She’s washed and cleaned carts between rounds, taken out the trash, ran the beverage cart, and picked the range – all in the name of earning playing privileges. In a world where course access is at a premium, Hailey’s always found a way to get hers.
If it’s something you want, find a way. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty… I’ve done the dirty work, taken out the trash, picked the range, all because I wanted to play. Money is never an excuse.
To be honest, Hailey’s never really been much for excuses, period. The week before GFU’s conference championship during her senior year, Hailey was in a car accident which caused significant back pain, exacerbated by the freezing cold temperatures of the Pacific Northwest spring. Knowing her team was counting on her if they wanted to make the National Championship, and knowing her collegiate career would come to an end if they didn’t, she made it a point to stay present and enjoy the moment.
My only goal was to hit each shot as best I could because I knew my team depended on me. I hit each shot and accepted where it went no matter what. I ended up winning the tournament by one stroke after making birdie on my very last hole. It was my picture perfect, storybook ending. I am very proud of that tournament.
After two years in the desert, Hailey decided it was time to take her first crack at LPGA Qualifying School. For those without prior tour status or exclusive world golf rankings, qualifying school is three stages long. Stage one took place in Rancho Mirage, California, just last month. Hailey fired rounds of 77-77-76 for a three round total of 230 – just seven shots shy of qualifying for stage two. While she didn’t advance to the second stage, she did earn conditional Symetra Tour status, which is the official developmental tour of the LPGA. I asked what her biggest takeaway was from this invaluable experience.
My biggest takeaway from this year was my overall mental state. I was so proud of myself for staying in the moment, staying calm, and not making Q-School bigger than it is. A lot of girls go into it and they don’t enjoy the moment because they get so nervous or want to play well. Everyone wants to play well, but it’s still JUST GOLF.
When recapping her experience, she noted that she hit the ball well enough to compete, but her putter really let her down. When asked if she’d be giving Q-School another go next year after a year with further Cactus Tour and Symetra Tour experience, she left no doubt.
I am anxiously counting down the days already. I had so much fun, smiles the entire time and was grateful to be there. I want to carry that attitude into next year.
Hailey has built herself quite the support team on Instagram with more than 117,000 followers, and while she willingly acknowledges that social media plays a large part in her career, there’s a misconception out there on its role.
I know a lot of people think I put myself out there on social media because I want the attention or that I’m just looking for fame. That’s not it at all. Social media connects me with people, sponsors, and supporters. It has helped me reach young golfers who can message me with any questions they might have regarding college, high school golf advice, drills, etc. Being able to help someone like that is amazing. They are on my team as much as I am on theirs.
She frequently interacts with young fans and responds to almost every question asked (including mine). She posts videos of drills, tips and tricks, and helpful information in addition to sharing the experiences along her journey. She truly considers her fans part of Team Hailey and her actions and interactions reflect that.
In addition to her fans, Hailey is driven by the relationships the game has brought into her life. Aside from the personal friendships, she’s developed myriad business relationships in the form of sponsorships, including becoming a Nike Staff member. Golf has taken her all over the world, and the experiences she’s had and the people she’s met along the way are what drive her to continue on her journey.
My life doesn’t always seem real because of the things I get to do because I’m a golfer. Traveling through France, attending celebrity charity events with Reggie Bush, competing on the Golf Channel. It’s a dream come true. I’m just enjoying every bit of this life I’ve walked into. I figure if I’m going to do it, I better give it my all.
That’s exactly what she’s doing. I encourage you all to follow Hailey on her journey on her Twitter and Instagram. Reach out if you have questions of your own. We’re less than 350 days from Stage 1 of next year’s Qualifying School, and I hope you’ll all be rooting for Hailey alongside me. #TeamHailey #ToeTap