Going to the LPGA Q-series wasn’t Emma Talley’s plan, but perhaps it was God’s.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
That’s one of the Bible verses that Talley, a devout Christian, has relied on during challenging times in her life.
Until this year, Talley never really knew what it was like to struggle in golf.
“It’s been terrible,” Talley said with a chuckle. “But honestly, it’s been something that probably needed to happen for me to get to the next level.”
For 15 years, Talley enjoyed an idyllic start to her career in golf. She was a decorated amateur who appeared on the U.S. Curtis Cup, Junior Solheim and Junior Ryder Cup teams. In 2013, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. While at the University of Alabama, she was a four-time All-American and won the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. After a one-year stint on the Symetra Tour, she took the next natural step in her career and earned her card to the LPGA Tour for 2018. In her first season, she excelled. The jump to the biggest stage in the women’s game appeared seamless. Talley finished in the top 10 in her second start on Tour and she added two more top 5s during her rookie season.
“Last year was great. I mean, very easy,” Talley told LPGA.com. “I was in contention some and I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be the easiest 10 years of my life.’”
Then came 2019.
Like so many players who find success on Tour, they keep looking for ways to further improve. Then they start making changes. Talley was no different and admits to making some ‘bad decisions,’ which included changing equipment during the year.
“I basically went through everything you can possibly imagine as far as struggling on the golf course,” Talley said.
Her second season spiraled. She missed twice as many cuts in 2019 as she did in 2018 and only twice finished inside the top 20. As her game suffered, so did her confidence.
“Mentally, it was draining,” Talley said. “I definitely got so stressed out this year and I just wish I would have taken a step back and seen the bigger picture rather than just being so hard on myself and trying so hard, because it definitely did not help anything.”
Talley finished outside the top 100 on the LPGA’s Money List at No. 103, which forced her to return to Q-Series in order to keep her card for 2020. When Talley realized after the final full-field event of the year in Texas that she would be heading to Q-Series, she was inundated with messages from concerned friends and family back home in Princeton, Kentucky. Talley took to Instagram to express her feelings about the year in hopes of answering everyone’s questions, so she wouldn’t have to talk about her struggles anymore.
“Unfortunately, my game was off this entire year, so I have to go back to Q-Series in a couple weeks to get better status,” Talley posted on Oct. 7. “Thank goodness this is all a big process and I’m trying to learn what God is teaching me through all of this. Let’s go get better.”
What is it that God’s trying to teach her? Talley doesn’t know, but she is up for the journey of finding out. Tuesday, as she practiced at Pinehurst with her caddie and new coach, Gareth Raflewski, who she added to her team late in 2019, they were talking as much about faith as they were golf.
“It’s the number-one thing in my life and we were actually talking about it during the last hole” Talley said. “For me, my relationship with God is really important and I just know through this his timing is everything and I will get through it bigger and better.”
Talley is encouraged by her work with Raflewski, a short-game guru who has worked with Rolex Rankings No. 1 players Jin Young Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. The pair have worked together over the last month to help Talley rediscover the game that helped her get to the LPGA Tour.
“I feel like my game is back,” Talley said. “It’s all kind of been a process, but I think we’ve finally got it.”
During the next two weeks, Talley will compete over eight rounds on two courses at Pinehurst Resort in hopes of finishing inside the top 45 to secure her LPGA Tour card for 2020. While it wasn’t in Talley’s plan to have to go to Q-Series, the journey that led her there was a process that helped her learn about herself. And as for Talley’s plan for the future? Well, that’s an answer only God knows.
“No matter what happens, it’s just God’s timing,” she said. “And I just have to keep going with the process.”