By JOHN REITMAN for the Findlay Courier
What a difference a year can make.
Just ask former University of Findlay golfer Kasey Petty, who has spent much of her time since graduating in 2016 trying to qualify for a spot on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s hard,” Petty said. “One week you have it, then one week you don’t.
“That first year as a pro was a huge learning experience. I was just trying to force everything, and in golf that doesn’t work. It seemed the more I tried, the worse it gets.”
Last year, Petty, 24, played 10 events on the National Women’s Golf Association mini-tour in Florida, hoping to work out some kinks in her game. This year, she played a full winter schedule of 14 events, shaved two full strokes off her per-round average, built up a lot more confidence, and, she believes, took a major step closer to her goal of being a full-time tour pro, first on the Symetra Tour and then the LPGA Tour.
“Playing in all of them gets me in a routine of playing in events every week,” said Petty, who splits her time between Bradenton, Florida and Findlay as she chases her dream. “It’s helped my game a lot and made me a much more consistent player.
“This year, I’m working on being more consistent in all areas of my game. There were three or four events this year where I felt if I had been putting better I could have won. I just haven’t had that tournament yet where everything’s on.”
A native of Groveport in suburban Columbus, Petty had a stroke average of 75.8. This year, she averaged 73.8 strokes per round and placed in the top 10 in 14 events. She finished third on the tour in earnings and was the runner-up in player-of-the-year standings.
A proponent of the power of positive thinking, she listens to audiobooks and podcasts by sports psychologist Bob Rotella, Ph.D., whenever she’s in her car, including hopscotching around Florida driving from one tournament to the next.
“It’s a lot of driving, and you have to find ways to pass the time,” Petty said.
“My mom asks me ‘why do you listen to those over and over? I have to ingrain it in my mind. I can recite almost all of them, and I don’t want to lose that.”
Most recently, Petty finished tied for ninth at the Ohio Women’s Open held June 11-12 at Eagle Rock Golf Club in Defiance. Later this month, she’ll play in the Michigan Women’s Open at Crystal Mountain Resort near Traverse City and she’ll attempt to Monday qualify for the LPGA’s Marathon Classic scheduled for July 9-15 at Highland Meadows in Sylvania.
During the winter, she works with swing coach Grant Price, formerly an instructor at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton and the nephew of PGA Tour pro Nick Price.
“I’m working on being a more aggressive putter,” Petty said. “I do a lot of drill and use some new techniques and different ways of practicing.
“The first year, I’d stand over the ball and there were a million thoughts in my head. Now, I stand over the ball and before those thoughts come in, (I) just hit it.”
As a senior at the University of Findlay, Petty was the NCAA Division II runner-up in 2016. She turned pro right away and appeared to be on the fast track when she won a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in St. Louis to earn a spot in the tournament at CordeValle in San Martin, California. Although she missed the cut, she made national headlines when then-boyfriend Jake Miller, an assistant golf coach at UF, proposed to her after the second round at CordeValle. The moment was caught on camera and circulated throughout the national media.
The couple will be married in August.
The life of a mini-tour player is anything but glamorous, Petty says as she splits time this summer working on her game, playing in tournaments and finalizing last-minute wedding plans.
Third on the MWGA money list this year equates to winnings of $8,861. To make ends meet, she lives with a sponsor family in Findlay and also uses their winter home in Bradenton while playing the MWGA events in Florida.
A few months after the wedding, Petty will go back to Florida and much of her newlywed year will be yet another installment in a long-distance relationship.
“We Facetime a lot,” she said of staying in touch with her fiancée and family.
“I’m getting used to it, and things are falling into place. Eventually we want to have a family, so I know I’ll have to quit sometime. But right now my goal is to get to the LPGA, and I’m prepared to pursue this for as long as it takes.”
John Reitman is director of news and education for TurfNet, an Orlando, Florida-based news service for the golf industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.