Emma Talley (Princeton, Ky.) and success were synonymous throughout her amateur and college career. She won the 2011 AJGA Girls Championship, 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 2015 NCAA individual national champion and the list goes on. She was Ms. Kentucky in 2008 and won three state championship and would have won four if she didn’t disqualify herself – that’s a story for another time (Google it). Plain and simple, success followed her.
She even dazzled – to the surprise of nobody - at her first professional start on the Symetra Tour by nearly winning.
Unfortunately for Talley, it wasn’t a storybook ending to her first half season as a professional. Fatigue set in and her swing failed late in the year and she closed 26th on the Symetra Tour money list. Her putter went ice cold at Final Stage of Qualifying Tournament and so the reality of falling short of the LPGA set in.
Instead of dwelling on her first golf mini-failure, she’s looking at it as a necessary evil that will only help in the long run.
“If you never fail, you are not going to get better and I think it was the perfect thing for my game,” said Talley, who had four top 15 finishes in her first seven starts but none in her final seven. “Honestly, I needed another year on the Symetra Tour. I hope to get my card this year, but I think it will be good for me to get a full season out there (Symetra Tour). If I would have succeeded, I wouldn’t have changed anything and because of the failures I’ll be better for it hopefully.”
Talley has indeed made some changes. The former Alabama All-American is now living in Birmingham and playing out of Shoal Creek, home to the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, and a few other tracks. She is also reading Dr. Bob Rotella’s book “How Champions Think” and is working with a new Odyssey putter and new clubs.
She’s also re-connected with a practice partner in Robby Shelton, a budding star just beginning his PGA TOUR career.
“We were best friends all through college and he’s really good,” said Talley. “He didn’t play well this summer either, but as soon as we start playing together we play well. He is a leaving for a tournament in San Diego and he was like ‘do you want to come caddy for me’ and I was like ‘no, not really’ but it’s great to practice with him.”
Talley, who didn’t even walk down the aisle at Alabama before making her Symetra Tour debut in 2016, admits that the sheer amount of golf was a shock to her system.
“I had never played that much golf in my life,” said Talley, who played in 14 events between June and mid-October. “By the end of the year, I was so tired and my game was struggling. This year, I have a better plan to know when I need to take weeks off to go fix my swing. I just don’t want to be so afraid to take weeks off.”
“I’m going to travel a lot with Erica (Popson) and I think that will be really fun,” continued Talley. “I’m just really excited about this season.”
One of Talley’s major pain points in 2016 was her inability to make birdies on par-5 holes.
“I’m really focused on my 70-yard-and-in-game because I was noticing that a lot of players birdie the par-5’s and I didn’t do that,” explained Talley. “I’ve been working really hard on my short game because I think I can save a lot of strokes that way.”
While Talley is firmly focused on an LPGA card, she also wants a spot in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open on a course she is learning to love day-by-day.
“Everything is just perfect,” said Talley about Shoal Creek. “You go there and it is so peaceful and their facilities are awesome. There are other professional golfers out there that I get to practice with. I look up and I almost feel like I’m in a dream with how beautiful it is.”
The bottom line is the last six months of Talley’s life were a major adjustment. Like any graduating college student athlete, she went from practicing with a team to trying to figure out life as an adult. Tack on the added pressure of trying to catch up to the pack to secure a card and that’s just challenging.
“I was used to practicing with my teammates for the last four years and then all of a sudden you are by yourself,” said Talley, who is a charmer and loves to be around people. “It was hard at first. I was also trying to figure out my taxes and Quickbooks and hotel arrangements. My parents were great, but they also want me to learn how to do things myself.”
While practicing and working out in preparation for 2017, Talley also is keeping a close eye on the Green Bay Packers because her dad, who owns a small share of the team like other ticket holders, is a die-hard fan.
In a couple months, all eyes will be on the LPGA prize.