"Lisa Hackney, LPGA rookie." That's how I've been introduced to
the crowd at the 13 LPGA tournaments I've played in this year,
and each time I hear it I smile. It's quite amusing, really,
being called a rookie. I mean, I'm 29 years old and have been
playing professionally around the world for six years. Last
season, in Europe, I finished fifth on the money list, was on
the Solheim Cup team and won the Welsh Open.
If I'd had my druthers, I would've been an LPGA rookie long ago,
but until last fall I was 0 for 4 at the Q school, which meant I
had to play in Europe, Australia and Japan, where the crowds are
not so large and the paychecks not nearly as hefty as those over
here. I was pleased when I finally squeaked through Q school
last October and earned my LPGA card. My boyfriend, Martin Hall,
was equally happy.
Seventeen years ago Martin taught me how to play the game. He
was the pro at Trentham Golf Club near my home of
Stoke-on-Trent, England. From the beginning, we shared a special
bond. He wasn't just my golf instructor, he was also my friend.
I knew then it wasn't just a schoolgirl crush, nor was he just a
golf coach. We were soul mates. When he moved to Florida five
years later to teach at St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton,
I was sad to see him go.
Fate brought us together again eight years ago. We were both
visiting home, in England, and ran into each other at Trentham.
I was a sociology major at Florida, and he was still teaching at
St. Andrews. We started dating, and soon my dream of playing on
the LPGA became his dream, too.
This season started slowly. Having achieved nonexempt status at
Q school, I was low on the priority list for getting into
tournaments. My first opportunity to play was in the Hawaiian
Ladies Open, which was the fourth event of the year, but I
missed the cut. Everything changed, however, in March when I
finished fifth at the Dinah Shore. My mom, Susie, was at the
tournament, and she was a bit gobsmacked at the whole
thing--because I had done well, and because the high finish
bumped me far enough up the money list so that I could play in
whatever tournaments I wished.
I've had a lot to smile about ever since. Not only am I the
top-ranked rookie on the tour, but I've also seen steady
improvement in my game since I joined the LPGA. Do I miss
Europe? Sometimes, and to curb the nostalgia I go home to play
in a tournament every couple of months. It's fun to compete with
the old gang. I'm certainly no rookie to them.
Lisa Hackney has earned $134,573 and is 30th on the money list.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Hackney, 29, is the LPGA's top rookie. [Lisa Hackney playing golf]