NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Facing Amanda Jacobs in the Round of 64 on Monday, Sarah Davison headed to the 16th hole 3 down with three holes to play. Davison proceeded to hit great wedge shots on two consecutive holes, which led to birdies and extended the match to the 18th hole. However, she hit her tee shot on the par 3 well short and into the hazard fronting the green, ending her comeback bid and, for the second straight year, her run in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in the first round of match play.
Davison, 34 and a mother of twins, briefly played professionally after a decorated career at the University of Alabama, and identified that swing on the home hole as a great example of the difference between her game now and what it was when she had the opportunity to practice and compete full-time.
I probably could have [shots like that], but not nearly as prevalent. Some of the shots I hit out there today, they wouldn’t have been on the radar, she said after the match. Maybe on the range, but not like that in competition.
Indeed, golf took a back seat in Davison’s life some years ago. Two years of competing on the Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit now known as the Symetra Tour, provided the three-time All-Southeastern Conference player with a dose of reality that her dream of being a professional golfer might not work out as she had envisioned it.
I wanted to give [pro golf] a shot. It was one of those things where I could say I tried. I met a lot of cool people and got to go to some cool places, said Davison. It’s just hard. I wasn’t even really having fun anymore. It’s so much pressure and at some point you just have to realize, you need to either make a living or try to go down this bumpy road, so I decided to go back to school.
Davison stopped competing professionally in 2005 and went on to earn a masters degree in healthcare administration at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. She regained her amateur status in 2008, and quickly showed her prowess on the golf course had not abated, capturing the Louisiana Women’s State Amateur Championship the following year. She would once again step away from competitive golf, however, when she and her husband Steve, who played baseball at Louisiana Tech University, welcomed their son, Joseph, and daughter, Cate.
Still not a full-time competitor, the Shreveport, La. native found a way to win her state amateur again in 2013, while also advancing to match play in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur on her first try. Clearly, her natural talent has not evaded her, but with other responsibilities come certain unavoidable limitations
My expectations were a little lower. My chipping is not as good. Anyone can hit it on a green, that really didn’t go away, she observed. It’s just the short game, pretty much. I’m used to getting up and down from 30 or 40 yards and now I’m just saying, hit this shot clean. That’s probably not a good thought.
With her children now old enough to attend school, she is able to practice a few days per week for three or four hours each day, and likes having something to prepare for. Even with limited practice time, Davison, who reached the semifinals of the 1997 U.S. Girls’ Junior before falling to eventual champion Beth Bauer, has found a way to remain competitive, and that’s what she prefers.
It’s fun. I don’t enjoy just going out on a Sunday afternoon and just hitting it around. I want competition, said Davison, who is determined to qualify for next year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La., where she and her family live on the second hole. I want something to practice for. It’s just fun to for me to put my headphones on and get on the putting green and putt for an hour and know that I have a tournament in two weeks and this 5-footer matters.
Like many of her fellow Women’s Mid-Amateur competitors, Davison has the ultimate goal of winning every time she plays, but has traded golf for other top priorities in her life.
This is fun, it’s not as much pressure. At the end of the day, I’m not happy I lost, but I have a lot to go home to.
Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms at the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.