My name is Kelly Okun, and I'm a professional golfer. I decided to start this blog about my experiences because I love sharing stories. It is also a great way to keep family, friends, pro-am partners, and host families updated. I hope you enjoy the anecdotes and photos!
While I would love to jump straight into the Australian adventures, I figured I should explain how I got here in the first place (and get all the "I" sentences out of the way). Plus, the golf tours and how to gain status on them can be a tad confusing; hopefully my explanations will be helpful.
I began golfing at nine years old, but I was also playing several other sports at the time. It was not until my freshman year of high school that I started competing in junior tournaments and working with my swing coach. I then played Division I golf at the College of William and Mary in Virginia (Go Tribe!). Since graduation in 2015, I have been playing on the National Women's Golf Association (formerly known as the SunCoast Tour) as an amateur. On July 22, 2016, I turned professional.
Navigating through the waters of professional golf is difficult and confusing, even for golfers! I love chasing my dream, and doing so allows me to travel to exotic places and meet amazing people. My goal is to compete on the LPGA, and I am doing my best to get there. This year, I am a member of the Symetra Tour, LET Access Tour, National Women's Golf Association (NWGA), and the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour (ALPG).
Fortunately, there are many tours out there. Unfortunately, it is hard to keep track of them all! Here are some brief descriptions of the tours I am competing on in 2017.
Symetra: Developmental tour for the LPGA; mainly played in the U.S.
LET Access: Developmental tour for the Ladies European Tour.
NWGA: Mini tour; mainly played in the southeastern U.S.
ALPG: Australian tour; provides opportunity to qualify for the Australian Women's Open (an LPGA event), the Oates Victorian Open (an LET event), and the RACV Gold Coast Challenge (formerly the Ladies Masters).
In order to play on the Symetra Tour this year, I had to compete in the LPGA Qualifying School last August in Palm Springs, CA. While I did not advance to Stage II, I played decently and now know what to expect for next year.
The desert itself is amazing - mountains and golf courses galore! I was fortunate to find the sweetest host family in the state, Don and Connie. Living in their guest house for a month, I became really close with them, and I look forward to visiting them again soon. The biggest lesson I learned out there was to listen to my body - this summer, I plan on shortening my time out there so I don't tire myself out before QSchool even begins!
The Ladies European Tour hosted its Qualifying School in Morocco. Turns out King Mohammed VI is a huge fan of golf and sponsors the event. The Lalla Aicha Tour School is even named after his revered aunt. We played on the Mohammedia Golf Club just outside Casablanca and then traveled south to Marrakech. This was my first time in Africa, and I had a fun time. However, knowing French would be particularly helpful the next time around. My caddy, Hassan, and I managed to communicate through several thumbs up. After I get home from Australia, I am hoping to go back in time a bit and delve further into my Moroccan experience; there is so much to share about their culture (and the snake charmers!).
The LET QSchool marked a change in momentum in my game. I had spent the three months prior in bed because I had a herniated disc in my back. However, I was able to make it through five rounds of 18 with few complications (thanks, Dr. Casey!). That was a victory in itself, so I still felt as though I won when I left Africa. I did not advance to the final stage, but I did win status onto the LET Access tour. I have been golfing non-stop ever since!
What's happening now?
I'm in Australia, and I absolutely love it here. I tried to publish this post a couple weeks ago, but I accidentally deleted it in the Sydney airport and have been busy golfing and exploring ever since. Therefore, I have lots to catch you up on! The following posts will include adventure and golf updates from Sydney and the Gold Coast. I'm talking challenging courses, baby koalas, Australia Day, and run-ins with famous athletes. And I'm only halfway through my trip!
For daily updates and photos, follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @KellyOkunGolf. I also have a Facebook fan page here. I look forward to sharing my golf rounds and Aussie discoveries with you!