NAPA, Calif. – Don’t blame Emily Talley if she at times thought she was dreaming this past year. Just about every time she set foot on a golf course, she accomplished something that hadn’t before been accomplished, whether it was a personal accomplishment or one for the Colorado women’s golf team.
“It was exciting to say the least,” Talley said. “I think for me it was a year of overcoming personal plateaus. I am really thankful for the year, I have to pinch myself after looking at everything I accomplished, it was really fantastic.”
2012 opened with Talley’s final collegiate semester on the horizon. The Buffs by all accounts had a successful fall season, especially taking into account the fact that CU coach Anne Kelly had upped the ante on the Buffs schedule, a gamble that would prove to pay off come May.
But Talley’s individual results the previous fall weren’t what she had been accustomed to. After finishing in the top 10 in each fall tournament the year before, Talley opened the season with a solid fifth place finish at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic but then finished outside the top 20 the other three events.
Focused on closing out her career on a high note, Talley buckled down and responded by finishing no lower than 14th in each regular season spring event, including a third place finish at the Sugar Bowl, helping the Buffs to a second place finish, perhaps the Buffs most impressive finish of the season as the Buffs topped the three of the top four teams in the current rankings. CU then used that second place finish to win back-to-back tournaments to close out the regular season.
Historically the Buffs have performed better in the fall than the spring, and led by Talley and one of the deepest teams CU has put on the links, the Buffs broke through that barrier despite the toughest schedule in program history and broke into the top 10 of the national rankings for the first time in program history.
With the postseason on the horizon, Talley finished well at the loaded Pac-12 Championships, finishing ninth while the team finished sixth, and the Buffs qualified for the NCAA Regionals for just the third time in program history (all under Talley’s watch), but this one was different, it would be hosted by the Buffaloes at Colorado National Golf Club, and expectations were for the Buffs to breeze through to the NCAA Championships for the first time.
Seeded fourth, the Buffs saw themselves in ninth place and on the verge of not qualifying for the NCAA Championships, the team’s ultimate goal entering the season and a disastrous notion. On a rainy Saturday in May, Talley calmly put two straight 76s out of her mind and shot a 4-under par 68, not knowing that her teammates all also stepped up and the Buffs shot a collective 9-under par and surged into fourth place to advance to the Big Dance for the first time.
Her 4-under par and the Buffs 9-under par may have been one of her biggest collegiate achievements, but it wasn’t even her biggest achievement of the day. The History and Communication major also graduated from the University of Colorado that same day.
“It was one of the most proud moments of mine to help the team to national’s for the first time ever,” Talley said. “Then graduating college and the ride I went on throughout the summer and fall, it was just amazing.”
After leading CU at the NCAA Championships individually, she spent most of the rest of 2012 not really knowing what was on the horizon. She knew she was going to take some time off in Norway and then head to Japan, Korea and Hong Kong as part of an NCAA All-Star team, and past that she knew she would get into Stage I of LPGA Qualifying School later that summer.
It wasn’t until she was on her trip to Norway that she decided to enter the country’s amateur championship, and in a prelude of things to come, she won medalist honors, a feat that was really the only accomplishment missing from her collegiate resume.
She continued that success on the amateur level by also winning the California amateur championship at the Chardonnay Golf Course in her home town of Napa, Calif., a few weeks later.
After those two wins and the NCAA All-Star Trip, she turned her sights to the pro tour. She made her professional debut at the Canadian Open late in August, and she successfully Monday qualified to take the final spot in the entire field after shooting a 1-under par 71 in the final round and then winning on the first playoff hole.
Despite not making the cut after two rounds of the Canadian Open, she had won her first playoff at any level of golf and entering Q School the next week, she really had already accomplished everything she wanted and more in the golf season, but there was still much more to come.
A quick turnaround and she found herself in Florida for Stage I of Q School. A solid second round that put her in the top 10 enabled her to coast through the first stage the first week of September, thus extending her golf further into 2012.
About a month later she opened Stage II by shooting a 69 in the first round and after she was in 14th through three rounds she again coasted and was successful in qualifying through to the third stage. Should she perform well there, she would earn her LPGA card, something she never thought possible entering the year as a collegian.
To keep in tune, she accomplished another major first early in November. She played in the Arizona Open and finished in 10th place, earning her first paycheck for playing golf.
Then it was off to the final stage of Q School, where her golf for the calendar year would come to an end one way or the other. After shooting two rounds of 2-over par, then a 1-over 73 and even par 72, she would need to go low in the final round to make a push at it. She did have her best round, a 1-under par 71, but eventually missed her LPGA card by three strokes.
Despite not having the ultimate fairy tale ending to the year, Talley, as she does, always keeps things positive.
"I’m not sure I was ready to go straight to the LPGA" she said. "I definitely need to pay my dues before making it on the big leagues. Not only will it boost my confidence but it will give me more experience which will just benefit me in the long run! Don't get me wrong, I would have taken that LPGA status but being fully exempt on the Symetra Tour is not the worst thing in the world."
Further, she is now able to work on her stroke with CU assistant coach Brent Franklin, something she said would never have happened had she made the LPGA Tour this year. As it stands now, she has a full exemption into all Symetra Tour events for 2013 and will play in a couple of LPGA events and will also likely play in some Cactus Tour events. She can also skip the first stage of qualifying next year.
“It was a great final semester of college followed by a really awesome summer and fall,” Talley said. “Making my pro debut and getting to the final stage of Q School the first time around was more than I could’ve asked for. Helping CU make it to nationals for the first time ever, graduating college and winning my first two amateur tournaments, Monday qualifying for my first LPGA. It was an amazing year.”
And Talley isn’t stopping there, she’s setting her sights higher for 2013. “I’m really excited for my rookie year on the Symetra. After the last few months, my goals and aspirations are on a new level. I’m moving forward.”
Sky beware; because Talley doesn’t realize that is her limit. She may very well bust through the sky straight into outer space.