Staying Connected to Sport: My Post-Career Journey

February 6, 2024
8 min read

It all started when I was 7 years old and my golf-obsessed grandpa wanted to get all of his grandchildren into golf. At the time I was a figure skater, a fairly competitive one at that. Like every typical Canadian, I probably had skates on my feet before I could walk. At first, I didn’t love golf, mostly due to the fact that I was the only girl amongst a sea of boys. In a last ditch effort to get me to like golf, my grandpa put me into a different junior program. To my surprise, there were 7 girls my age in the program, which was quite rare at that time. At first I went to hang out with new friends, but eventually I started to love the game. I transitioned away from skating and became more competitive with golf, and I guess you could say the rest is history. I am very grateful for my persistent grandfather.

From there it was a steady uphill trajectory from winning 9 hole tournaments to entering provincial and national tournaments. At 14, the dream quickly became to make it to the LPGA. I made the provincial team in high school and the Canadian national team as I entered college. I achieved my goal of getting a full-ride scholarship to a D1 school in the States and decided to study engineering. After many top D1 coaches told me I couldn’t study engineering while playing golf, I luckily found a coach who believed in me.  While at NC State, I got to compete in the ACC, one of the most competitive D1 conferences for golf. When I wasn’t in school, I was competing internationally and getting to train alongside the best golfers in Canada. When I look back on how I completed my degree with honors, represented my country and was one of the best golfers to come out of the NC State golf program, I think back to those coaches that said it would be too difficult. The “no” I received then, lit the fire in me to prove it could be done. 

The transition from college to a professional career was harder than I imagined it would be. I already had a rigorous travel schedule between the national team and collegiate golf, but all of that travel was planned and arranged for me. Traveling on your own, out of your car, on a tight budget, from city to city, for 8 months out of the year… is a whole different ball game. And then tack on the pressure of needing to play well to pay the bills.These were trying times, but great learning years.

In December 2017, my dreams came true when I earned LPGA Tour status through Q-school. Ironically, my two years competing on the LPGA included both the best and worst years of my career. In 2018, I played in this state of flow, with this ease, that was truly so fun to experience. There were moments of being in contention, playing in majors and playing alongside the idols that I had looked up to. Then in 2019, I was plagued full of overthinking, expectations, pressure and digging myself into a hole so deep, I didn’t think I would ever be able to climb out of it. 

At the time, I didn’t think that 2020 came in good timing, as I just lost my Tour card and then wasn’t able to earn my way back due to lack of competition. Upon reflection now, I think it was the perfect time for me as this forced break coincided with my first break away from the game.

I often get asked what traits or characteristics helped me become successful as an athlete; I have always found it a difficult question to answer. It is hard not to give the standard answers of “motivated, determined and driven,” since these encompass how most successful athletes are. I can also say that hard work, discipline and preparedness were huge factors of my success. I always prided myself on my ability to be prepared for everything that was in my control. When I stepped up to that first tee, there was no need for “first tee jitters” because I knew that I did everything I could do to prepare, and the rest was not up to me.

But what qualities do I feel were unique to me as an athlete? What was the difference between the year where I felt at my absolute best and the year where I hit rock bottom? For me, it was the difference of playing golf with ease and flow (or as most call, “in the zone”) relative to playing golf stuck in my head and emotions. Often when athletes describe what being in “the zone” is like, they can’t actually describe it. Since they are not overthinking, worrying or trying too hard, it happens with so much ease that it's almost forgotten. 

Through some deeper reflection, due to extra time in 2020, I have been able to pinpoint a few things that allowed me to get in this zone or flow. Authenticity, perspective and freedom lie at the core of what I was feeling when I had my most success. And more importantly, these three themes lie at the core of when I am feeling my best as a person. Being my talkative, goofy self as I warmed up on the range or in a post round interview. Being so grateful of wherever I was in the world that week, enjoying the beauty and nature around me. And playing with the utmost freedom in my mind and body.

When I stopped being this version of myself on the golf course, I knew that it was time to re-evaluate my career in golf. I wasn’t enjoying it out there anymore, and I didn’t feel like I was showing up as that best version of myself. So, after pouring my heart and soul into a game for a total of 22 years (6 of those playing for a living), I decided to make the difficult decision to step away.

As much as this was just shy of terrifying, in my heart I knew it was the right decision. And like anyone when they close a chapter in their life, it gives you a great opportunity to reflect. I held space to be proud of what I accomplished and then I also had to think hard about how I was going to show up in a new career and what I would be bringing with me from the game of golf. Yes, I knew that my drive, motivation, hard work, time management and preparedness certainly would help me in a new career. But it was also those guiding themes that I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget. 

Putting traits aside, there was also an evaluation for the type of career or job I would be interested in pursuing. Despite having an engineering degree, I knew engineering wouldn’t excite me. But there was always a part of me that was analytical in nature, curious and resourceful at heart. Whenever my mind wandered to life after golf, I always thought, “I hope I can still stay connected to sport.” It would be a dream to have a job that highlighted my strengths, and also could keep me connected to my first true love of sport.

And that is where Next League came in. What first seemed like the luckiest job posting to stumble across, quickly looked like the perfect fit. I struggled as a retired athlete with a resume lacking any work experience, chalked full of golf results and skills just to fill space. My resume didn’t get past the automated filtering systems most companies had when looking for candidates with prior “work experience.” I was just so grateful to get an interview with Next League, to get the chance to explain why my experiences could translate into the business world. Luckily I didn’t have to explain myself too much, as there were already leaders in the company that valued these unconventional parts of my resume.

I’ve now been with Next League, as part of the Strategy & Analytics team, for a little over a year at this point. Not only have I been given a non-judgemental, understanding space to grow and learn in, I have also been able to succeed using those same skills I felt helped me as a professional athlete. 

Of course, as anyone does in a completely new career path, I struggle with self doubt and imposter syndrome. Yes, I have an understanding of the sport side of our company, but I am fairly new to the tech and digital world. Though it is a challenge, I remind myself of what helped me in sport. I learn from my peers and mentors, I prepare for everything that is in my control, and I don’t forget my three guiding themes. 

Yes, there was a lot of new terminology and processes to learn, but ultimately it was like learning a new skill in golf. For example, this self-doubt shows up the most when we are in front of clients. When it comes to presenting in front of a client, or even just presenting ideas and findings to my team, I start to doubt myself and my abilities. So I relate it back to what I said about “first tee jitters.” There is no need for those nerves if you are fully prepared. Know and trust in your work, lean into your unique quirks and always keep perspective and gratitude. If you do these things, the best version yourself will always show up to that meeting or presentation.

Professional sport is an experience I feel so grateful to have. It brought me some of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my life. However, it required a lot of sacrifice and time away from friends and family. In this new chapter, I am soaking up the benefits of being in my home, having weekends with family and friends and enjoying new hobbies.

Many people believe there is a huge difference between professional sport and the business world, but I beg to differ. The qualities that you find in the best athletes, you also find in the most successful business people. In the end, we are all humans just trying to do our best, working towards a goal. 

In writing this piece, I hope to inspire anyone who is going through transition to embrace the beauty in change, to reflect and remove the labels. I was a human before I was an athlete, a golfer, and now a business analyst. I think reminding ourselves of our why and our values will help us see that no matter what the label, we all have something unique and special to offer.