When you dream of playing on the LPGA Tour, it only takes a taste to deepen the desire. Madeleine Sheils will tee off just hours from her college home of Lincoln, Nebraska this week at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort Charity Classic. A week ago, she Monday qualified for the Portland Classic, her first career LPGA Tour event.
Although she missed the cut, it didn’t sour the taste one bit.
“It (LPGA) was absolutely fantastic,” said Sheils. “I knew going in that whether I played great or didn’t play so great, I would come away with a wonderful learning experience and I did.”
With a taste of grandeur, she has never been hungrier for a return.
“What I took away most was that the LPGA Tour is no longer a distant light at the end of the tunnel, it is now right around the corner. I felt like I belonged and I could hang with them, but my putter was just not hot at all.”
Sheils is determined to get back to the LPGA and do so sooner rather than later.
“You see all these great players who have won majors and hall-of-famers and I want to be out there so bad. That’s what we all dream for and getting out there and having a taste makes me that much hungrier. I’m determined to get there quickly.”
Sheils currently ranks 35th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $16,750 earned in 15 events played. The 2012 Nebraska graduate will play in two of the final three events. She will miss the Garden City Charity Classic to attend her older sisters wedding.
“What is great about the Symetra Tour is that it prepared me for the LPGA event. I felt normal once I got inside the ropes because I knew exactly how to practice and how best to tee it up on Thursday and how to carry myself once I was playing. It felt like just another golf event which is definitely a testament to how well the Symetra Tour prepares us.”
With just two events remaining on her schedule, she is mentally prepared for what she needs to do and is confident.
“In order to get inside the top-10, I probably need a win or two top-2 finishes. I need a win and I know I can do it. I’m playing as good as I have ever played and it’s just a matter of putting everything together for three days.”
She has two top-10 finishes including a tie for fifth at the Four Winds Invitational.
“If I don’t get into the top-10, my goal is at least to get into the top-25 so I can skip stage two (of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament) which is a huge goal. I want to be on the LPGA Tour really, really badly so top-10 here or top-20 at Q-School stage three is the goal.”
The Boise, Idaho native has shown significant improvement from her rookie 2013 campaign. Her scoring average has dropped from 73.67 to 72.91. She missed six cuts last year and has missed just one this year. She went from 96th to now 21st in greens in regulation and her driving distance has increased from 228.256 to 239.880.
“This is the best I have hit the ball, ever. My ball-striking is as consistent and strong as it has ever been and I think I am playing the game better than I ever have. My preparation during the week is really good and I work well with my caddie, Wayne.”
In November of 2013, Sheils added two new golf coaches to her team, Michael Pinkey and Terry Rowles, who are based in Phoenix where Sheils lives in the offseason.
“Over the course of the last year, they’ve had a big influence on me. They’ve been a huge part of my success, they are really good at what they do and we work well together. They’ve helped me better understand my own swing. I understand ball flight and I understand my tendencies better. I’ve worked really hard at what they’ve given me to make sure that I hit the ball better.”
Sheils, the only Nebraska graduate playing on a professional tour, feels at home this week in Mayetta.
“It’s really cool being here because it feels like every day of practice that I had for four years at Nebraska. It was just as hot and windy and it feels like home.”
Sheils has fond memories of her four years in Lincoln. Four former teammates, one roommate and their families will be at Firekeeper Golf Course to watch her play this week.
“The thing that makes Nebraska so special is the people. There is incredible character and a family feel at the entire school. It’s going to be a really cool reunion.”
As far as her chances to win this week, Sheils feels like her advantage will come through experience playing in the wind. Unlike most players on Tour, Sheils is praying for a swirling wind.
“I know you have to stay patient in the wind. It (wind) tends to really raise the scores quickly so as long as you hold on and don’t get frustrated you’ll do well. I actually hope it blows hard, I think that will give me an advantage.”
Sheils didn’t earn her first win until her senior year of college and has worked for every inch of success she has achieved.
“The only thing that has ever come easy for me is the idea of hard work.”
Her hard working mentally is similar to current Volvik Race for the Card money list leader Marissa Steen.
“It’s been really inspiring to watch her be so successful this year because I do feel like I relate to her, especially after I read the last article on her when she played in Portland. She is so steady, so consistent and she gets the job done and that is how I see myself.”
Steen has assured her spot on the LPGA Tour and Sheils has a great chance to join her with a big finish to the season.
Her chance at a strong close starts on Friday at 1:25 p.m. when she tees off in first-round play.