This story is part of Yahoo Sports’ She’s Got Next series, featuring women in sports on the rise who deserve their time in the spotlight.
Former NCAA golf champion Haley Moore is enjoying a dream accomplished right now, but once the LPGA tour resumes later this month, she’ll become a little more fierce.
“It was just a dream of mine to go out there and just go play, and pretty much this first year [in] the LPGA for me is just to go have fun and enjoy the experience,” Moore told Yahoo Sports. “But then [it will be] just try to play really good golf and show how far I can come from when I first started to now.”
The 21-year-old golfer earned her tour card last fall and made her professional debut at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia with a bogey-free 66 on the first day. She missed the cut, but there are plenty of shots left in the season to make up for it.
Moore is used to adversity. She endured teenage bullying from peers in school and parents at tournaments. Then barely into her 20s, she had to find a way to finance her professional career before she could earn her way into the tour.
Bullying forces Moore to question her place in golf
Moore first hit the driving range at the age of 5 with her father, Tom, a former football player at Ohio State; mother, Michele, a Buckeyes tennis player; and older brother, Tyler. She found early on she had the talent and quickly developed into a star player.
But teenage bullying made her question her place. She was bigger than her peers and could be socially awkward. They gossiped about her, and it didn’t stop when she got to the course with parents accusing her of cheating in some way.
“Through my junior life, I was pretty bummed out and depressed by it,” Moore said. “I didn’t really know if I wanted to continue golf just because I thought I did something wrong. And I was like, maybe I shouldn’t have tried this sport and maybe I just need to take a break and figure out what I need to do.
“Golf was pretty much my life and I just, I wanted to compete and get out there,” she said. “If anything in my life is going not so well, I just know that I can distract [from] it all and go out and play golf.”
Moore’s guidance: work hard, and it’ll work out
Moore kept telling herself the bullies wouldn’t control her lift and she had a dream to follow. So she ignored the remarks and focused on playing in the LPGA, a league she grew up watching.
“It’s hard at first, but really just keep working hard and everything will go your way,” Moore said. “You’ll soon be up there at the top or you’ll soon achieve your dream and they are still doing nothing.”
She graduated high school early and enrolled at the University of Arizona less than two months after she turned 17. Immediately, she earned three top-10 finishes as a freshman and began to grow with the help of kind mentoring from teammates.
“As she started to socialize more with the upperclassmen on the team and really go into her practice regimen and her classes, she just really blossomed into a mature young woman,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello told Yahoo Sports.
“When Haley first got here, she was very dramatic on the golf course and hypersensitive to a lot of things,” Ianello said. “And so that’s one of the biggest things we saw when she was here was her development mentally on the golf course. She really matured that way, keeping herself more composed and in control.”
Moore won the 2018 national championship for Arizona with a composed five-foot putt on the 19th hole as a junior. She reached No. 21 on the amateur list, and during her senior campaign, she finished tied for seventh at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
LPGA rookies get by with help of strangers
Moore earned her LPGA Tour card by going through all three stages of Q-School. It’s composed of three long tournaments in three different locations in the United States, which comes at a hefty price.
Shortly after graduating, Moore set up a GoFundMe that’s raised more than $37,000 and helped with toward entry fees (up to $3,000 each), hotel stays, road trips, car rentals, a caddie, and bringing a family member, usually her mom, for support.
“Everyone has a story for their background,” Moore said, “and if you tell the story, then you have complete strangers who you don’t know go on there and be like, ‘Oh, I want to watch this, I want to follow her career.’ And then any amount of money is greatly appreciated.”
The cost for Stage 1 alone was about $15,000, she said, and her mother, Michele, told Golf Week last year it would have been $10,000 more if Moore had to fly or didn’t have a place to stay.
That’s where another set of kind strangers comes in. Moore, then 16, won the 2015 ANA Inspiration Champions Junior Challenge by four strokes at the country club where Stage 1 is held.
“I had a lot of members who were members at Mission Hills Country Club who were following along that week and they had seen that I was playing well, so they came and followed me the last couple holes,” Moore said. “And basically they had just said, ‘OK, if you’re ever in the area, please give me a call. I have plenty of room to house you and everything.’ ”
Moore stayed there for a week in August during the tournament and had a host family in Australia, too.
“It’s pretty cool to have people like that,” she said. “That really does save a lot of costs.”
What’s next for Moore
Moore has made $5,494 in career earnings, though her mom takes care of the financial aspect so she can focus solely on the leaderboard numbers instead. Ianello, who played five professional golf seasons, realizes it can all be “overwhelming,” especially for a 21-year-old.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the money,” Ianello said. “One good week you could make all this money and you could start your success. Or really it could be financially detrimental to a family. So I think Haley is in a really good spot.”
She also has a friend to do it with in former Wildcats teammate Bianca Pagdanganan, who earned her tour card at the same time as Moore. They will swing by the annual Arizona Wildcat Invitational the weekend before the LPGA resumes in Phoenix on March 19.
“She’s just been such a blessing to my life,” said Ianello, in her 10th full year as the Wildcats coach. “For a kid that was 17 and so young and to see her thrive — it’s a coach’s dream come true to see her do as well as she’s doing.”
Moore said she won’t get too upset when her golf game isn’t there. She reached her dream and wants to “try to be the nicest golfer out there” while living it.
“I just want to see where it takes me and how long I can pursue it and whatever kind of career I can get with it,” Moore said. “I mean, I would love to win majors. And definitely represent my country in Olympics or Solheim Cups.”
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