Every year before the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, ISM holds our own Pro-Am, pairing our guests with pro golfers for a great day of friendly competition. This year, our Pro-Am aligned with the 32nd Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, so we took the opportunity to speak with several of our female pros to share their inspiration as they pursue a sport they are passionate about! Girls who are engaged in sports possess stronger leadership, communication, and teamwork skills, confidence, better physical health, and a more positive body image. Below are interviews with several women who have taken this to heart, sharing their stories for the younger generation!
Short Bio: Nicole Jeray is a longtime golf veteran who has played professionally for over 23 years. She began playing at 11 years old, had a great college career, and has toured with the LPGA and Legends Tours, along with playing on the Futures Tour for several years. She’s also become a sleep awareness advocate, after being diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy.
On Her Rookie Year with the LPGA (1994): “Everything was so new, and then I got paired with Nancy Lopez and Dottie Pepper. Both were amazing to play with, but I was a bit intimidated. In fact, at one round, Dottie nearly skipped me and realized at the last minute. She looked at me and told me, ‘Speak up, Rookie!’”
Competing Professionally with a Chronic Condition: “I wasn’t diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy until about 2000, but when I was everything made sense, like why I was always tired. For me, it was great, because now I understand myself better and manage my emotions better.”
Advice for Girls and Women Competing in Sports: “Persevere, dig deep, keep a good attitude and drink plenty of water! Also, remember to pace yourself and set priorities.”
Speaking About Sleep Awareness: “I love receiving emails and talking to people who have been affected by narcolepsy. There’s so much more awareness now than when I was diagnosed, and I love to see that in a room full of people at a conference, they’re now wide awake and I can physically see they are doing better.”
Dream Course to Play: “It’s really a tie for me! I’d love to play Augusta National or Pebble Beach, it’d really come down to a coin flip to decide!”
Dream Foursome: “I’d love to play with Steph Curry, Tony Robbins and Princess Diana!”
In support of Wake Up Narcolepsy, Nicole invites golfers in the Boston area to look for the Wake Up Worcester Pro-Am to be held in July 2018! For more information, check NicoleJeray.com for event announcements!
Short Bio: Stephanie grew up playing tennis, like her f her family. However, at 12 years old, she decided that she wasn’t a tennis player, but loved golf instead and focused her energy and attention there. Through college she played and qualified for the U.S. Open as an amateur, which was when she knew she wanted to play professionally! She’s done several years on various golf tours and participated in two seasons of the Golf Channel’s show The Big Break.
Biggest Professional Accomplishment: “Definitely qualifying for the U.S. Open. Only 156 players qualify, and there I was, along with some of the best players in the world!”
What’s Next: “I’ve been working with the armed services, traveling and teaching golf at bases. It’s an extremely satisfying experience to share the sport I love. I want to become a certified LPGA teacher so I can continue to teach golf.”
Advice on Deciding to Play Professionally: “My biggest advice is to just go for it! When it comes to doing events, don’t say no too quickly, because you never know who you’ll meet. And remember that you might not meet your exact end goal, but the experience along the way will be worth it!”
Other Advice for Girls in Sports: “I think we all need to not be too hard on ourselves. In golf, you lose way more often than you win, so you have to take the little victories as they come.”
Dream Course to Play: “I’d love to play Augusta National! I had a chance a few years back, but other golf obligations meant I had to prioritize that.”
Dream Foursome: “Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. Although, I found out my great grandma was a champion golfer, so I’d love to play a round with just her!”
Short Bio: Emily has been playing professionally for four years following a college career at the University of Oklahoma. She started playing when she was 7 years old, and fell in love with the sport as she got older, pushing herself to become more serious about the sport.
On Her Rookie Year with the LPGA: “Last year was my rookie year on the LPGA tour and although my golf didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked, it was an awesome learning experience. It was fun competing against the best players in the world and playing in front of a large audience.”
Biggest Professional Accomplishment: “I would say that getting my LPGA Tour card was my biggest professional accomplishment so far. “
What’s Next: “Now that I am back on the Symetra tour, my next goal is to win one of these tournaments in 2018.”
Advice for Girls in Sports: “My advice to young women is to work hard when no one is looking. I was told my whole life that I didn’t work hard, and I wasn’t strong enough to make it as a professional athlete. The thing is, I was working just as hard as everyone else, but I didn’t talk about it or post it on social media. When it was cold outside or early in the morning or late at night or a college game day, I was out practicing/working out.”
Why Sports are Important for Girls: “I think it is so important for girls and young women to be involved in sports because you can build relationships and discipline that will last you a lifetime!”
Dream Course to Play: “If I could play one round at any course in the world, I would play at St. Andrews in Scotland. That would be another dream come true!”
Short Bio: Interestingly enough, she really disliked golf growing up. Her dad had always encouraged her to take up the sport, but being a ballet dancer she wanted nothing of it. After she retired from her dance career upon finishing up high school, she started going to the golf course more frequently. She realized that there were a lot of training similarities between golf and ballet. It involved a lot of dedication, precision, hard work and it was very humbling. She played her first event at 20, did well, and was awarded a golf sports scholarship to one of the best universities in the world. Eileen turned pro about three years ago now when she was cast for the show Altered Course on the Golf Channel.
Biggest Professional Accomplishment: “Competing on the Golf Channel, competing internationally on the Australian Women’s tour and the Thai LPGA. The general overcoming of the perseverance required choosing this career path and being on the road a lot. When you are traveling with a very small budget, although incredible seeing so many parts of the world, it is not quite as glamorous of an experience as one would think.”
What’s Next: “Currently am working very hard at achieving my goal of playing on the LPGA.”
Advice for Girls and Women in Sports: “First and most importantly, as females we can sometimes be a bit hard on ourselves and self-conscious. Golf is a fantastic game and we have to learn to let go of what people think! Everyone hits bad shots, everyone misses the ball, and our swings will never look perfect. It is a great game to help us practice not being so self-conscious. Second, don’t worry so much about the score, all of that will come with practice. It is an amazing game and super beneficial as a female to learn the sport, whether it be for the younger generation being able to obtain a sport scholarship or post education. A lot of business transactions happen on the golf course, if your employer knows you are able to hold your own, it can be a benefit to your career success!”
Dream Course to Play: “Oh gosh, there are a few on my list. Spanish Bay, Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand and Cabot Links in PEI, Canada.”
Short Bio: “I was introduced to the game at the age of 13 and surprisingly found it boring! Mostly because I was (what I thought) a fast paced athlete playing tennis, track & field, cross country, etc. And coming from an Egyptian heritage, I grew up with strict parents and there was no chance in talking about boys. Golf gave me that opportunity in high school because there was only a boy’s golf team. Once I joined the team and started beating the boys, I found more excitement in the game. I discovered how fast-paced golf really was, where any moment, any shot, and any swing thought can pass you by so quickly and make the biggest difference in your game. I quickly fell in love the challenge and creativity the game brought.”
On Traveling and Golf: “Traveling has always played a huge role in my life. I’ve been lucky to play in so many memorable countries like Canada, Thailand, Dubai, Egypt, just to name a few. I recently traveled to The UAE and played the Emirates Golf Club, which was the most breath-taking golf course I’ve had the chance to play (yet!) but I have to say playing in Egypt is always extra special for me. I have so many friends, family, and a lot of support coming from there, and that feeling is like nothing else. All of these experiences have given me the opportunity to see different cultures all over the world. I grew up in the Bay Area and was exposed to so much diversity and I am blessed to have that, but being invited to play in incredible places is a whole new level of seeing new mannerisms, beliefs, languages, social cues, morals, and much more. It brings me to tears to think of how fortunate I am to be on this journey.”
Biggest Professional Accomplishment: “My YouTube channel! I hope that through it I can on take people with me on all my crazy golf journeys and travel adventures around the world, from one golf course to the next! I want to show people how great it feels to live your dream and that they can too, whether it’s golf or whatever their passion is. I am currently documenting everything from my travel days to all the unique and diverse courses I visit. I really like to bring awareness to hidden golf courses.”
Advice for Girls in Sports: “Choose a sport you are passionate about. If you don’t have the passion and motivation, it will be tough to be successful. So make sure your choice is something that you love and care about and it will build you as a person. Be open to all your options!”
Dream Course to Play: “Oh wow, I have a huge bucket list of golf courses I’d like to play, and I would say my top course right now is Hans Merensky Golf Club in South Africa!”
Dream Foursome: “Tiger Woods, Cardi B., and Myself in 20 years.”
Short Bio: “I started at the First Tee of San Diego, the Pro Kids golf academy. It is an inter-city program to keep youth off the streets and have them pick up healthy hobbies. I played on the boys team then started the girls team at Mira Mesa High School. I got into UCLA and walked onto the team. Then I turned pro in 2009 after filming a Northwestern Mutual Golf Commercial and have done multiple other golf modeling projects since including the Big Break Sandals. I was drawn to the individual aspect of the sport. I thought it was cool that I would be the only one determining my success by the amount of time and focus I put into it individually.”
Biggest Professional Accomplishment: “Teaching other females golf. It goes back to high school golf, recruiting my friends and teaching them to play. The fact that the program is still standing and so many girls who would have never picked up a club now play is the thing I am the most proud of.”
What’s Next: “Taking my golf business to the next level and fulfilling the ideas I have within the industry.”
On Hitting a Limit in High School: “I played number 1 on the boys team but wasn’t allowed to play CIF once they realized I was a girl. So we decided to create a girls team the next year. We recruited our friends and taught them how to play golf. We proudly made it to CIF that year and the program is still going strong.”
Advice for Girls in Sports: “Enjoy the process! Playing at a professional level takes time and commitment and as long as you are enjoying the process you will have positive results, because the experience is more than half of it!”
Dream Course to Play: “Augusta.”
Dream Foursome: “Tiger Woods, Nancy Lopez, and Payne Stewart.”