Transferring from Indiana to Louisiana State University has been a sliding doors moment for Lahinch sensation Aine Donegan, in fact she credits the move as the sole reason for the following piece being published.
Donegan is one of Ireland’s brightest young talents and this week she will tee it up at the US Women’s Open Championship at Pebble Beach having come through a qualifier earlier this month.
She was the big fish in a small pond at Indiana where she was easily the best golfer on her team and that allowed a conservative nature to creep into her game but her mind remained sharp and she quickly sought a move to LSU which has seen her rub shoulders with world number one amateur Ingrid Lindblad and take her game to the next level. She is in the big leagues.
“I was at Indiana for a year, but I transferred to LSU to improve my golf, LSU are a really good team and it has been amazing, second to none,” she says ahead of her maiden major appearance.
“It’s completely different to Indiana in terms of support. The number one player in the world plays for us now and everything from the coaches to the facilities have been amazing for my game.”
“We get on very well as a team and we got really close travelling together. I was really happy with how I played this year and honestly I would put that down to practicing with my team day in, day out. I would actually say the only reason my game has gotten to a different level this year is because I’m just practising with people who are way better than me.”
In order to be the best you have to beat the best and Donegan has pipped Lindblad on occasion.
“I was the number one by a mile on Indiana, but every tournament I play for LSU now, I’m just trying to beat Ingrid. Even if I’m on the putting green, I say, Ingrid come and play me in a putting competition.”
The Ennis native will have long time coach Gary Madden (Glenlo Abbey) on the bag for her this week in California but she also pays huge credit to University coach Garrett Runion for changing her mindset. Now she craves birdies.
“Our coach has changed how I look at the game a lot. Our coach got coach of the year and the coaches overall are some of the best in golf, they are nothing but helpful. “My mental game has definitely gotten better with him. By the end of Indiana, I played a bit conservatively, and I was a little bit scared, and now all I want to do is go out and make birdies.
“Our coach, Garrett Runion, always says, ‘Scared money don’t make money,’ so he likes us to go for par-fives in two if we can reach them. He doesn’t mind bogeys. He says, just keep the doubles or worse off the scorecard. It’s much more difficult to get rid of doubles than bogeys. Yeah, it’s a different attitude. Just more aggressive.”
It’s been a simple case of raising standards for Donegan at LSU who will have brand spanking new wedges waiting for her at Pebble – with the 21-year-old having to compete with Lindblad and world number 30 Latanna Stone just for a pat on the back from her coaches.
The business analytics student has gone from doubting her abilities to becoming an assassin as she ponders a career in the pro ranks. Safe to say the move to LSU has brought her out of her shell.
“We have the number one player in the world on our team and another girl who has played Curtis Cup for the US, just by playing and practicing with them you get normalised into shooting low scores where it’s not a big deal. Especially because we have the number one player in the world who has broken every record in the University, so unless you break her records you won’t be talked about too much.
“At Indiana in my freshman year, if I shot four under or something, everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s just unbelievable’. At LSU, I remember I shot four under and Ingrid also shot four under and the coach was like, ‘okay, well done’, but that’s it. No one’s, like, over-the-moon happy. It’s kind of just normal. You know what I mean? It normalises going low.
“When I first went to the US, I wanted to go pro and then I thought, I’m not good enough to turn pro,” she confesses. “But then this year, LSU has made me realise, well, I am good enough. Because at the end of the day, I am playing with the world number one and there are days where I beat her.
“I think we play golf for so long in college it will be hard just to give it up when we graduate and just not try.”
Source: Irish Golfer