Sierra Brooks is thankful to be where she is. They say hindsight is 20/20 and in the crazy year that is 2020, starting her professional career when she did looks prescient.
After a stellar amateur career, highlighted by her runner-up finish as an individual at the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf National Championship, Brooks left the University of Florida a semester early. She officially turned pro on November 7, 2019, the same day a guy named Jack Nicklaus became a professional 58 years earlier. Five days prior, Brooks tied for 62nd at LPGA Q-Series to secure Symetra Tour membership for the 2020 campaign.
“I can’t believe with the National Championships canceled, and the Augusta National [Women’s Amateur], being part of the team at UF, those were all the reasons for me not to turn pro,” said Brooks. “Obviously, in a weird way, I’m thankful for the decision I’ve made, but also sad at the same time given the circumstances. I would have been way behind the eight ball. Instead, these months to really get my feet under me, figure out pro golf life and put my best foot forward has been invaluable.”
Even if she had stayed in Gainesville for her final semester with the Gators, her college golf would have been cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, she’s used the time to prepare a team for the years ahead. Brooks signed with TaylorMade on March 3, a few days before her professional debut in the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at the Country Club of Winter Haven.
Team TaylorMade features the likes of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, as well as the No. 3 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking, Sung Hyun Park and LPGA Tour rising star Maria Fassi.
“I’m so honored to have my name among some of the greatest, people I have looked up to my entire life,” Brooks said. “I’m very thankful TaylorMade believes in me and I just want to do my part, one day making my name as big as theirs.”
Now it’s back to a waiting game. As courses around the world take precautions to combat the spread of COVID-19 while remaining open to play, Brooks continues to prepare for her Symetra Tour rookie season at Heathrow Country Club in Lake Mary, Fla. It’s home for Brooks when she’s not on the road. “They’ve put noodles in the holes, the rakes and water coolers are gone, and you’re not allowed to touch the flag,” she said.
Meanwhile, her dad and coach, Brent, who earned Division II All-America honors while at the University of North Florida, is now working from home and able to spend more time with her on the course. Between pressure situations to a little friendly competition, Brent has helped keep a calm and present mindset at the forefront of Sierra’s preparation.
“Sometimes my parents say, ‘You need to stop and smell the roses,’ but I like to keep my head down, just plug away,” said Brooks. “Ever since I started golf, I’ve had dreams and I am starting to live out some of those dreams now. At the same time, I’m not satisfied and have so much more I want to accomplish. I’m focused and driven until I complete my dreams, on and off the course. Just have to compromise at the gym a little bit for the time being.”