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Meehan: Brophy logging miles on ‘Road to LPGA’

Sports reporter/columnist Jim Meehan. (SR)
Sports reporter/columnist Jim Meehan. (SR)

“Big Break Ireland” is long gone from Annie Brophy’s rear-view mirror, replaced by objects that are much closer in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois.

The former Gonzaga Prep standout is in her second year chasing her dreams on the Symetra Tour (formerly the Futures Tour), which carries the slogan: “Road to the LPGA.” It’s the LPGA equivalent to the PGA’s Nationwide Tour, though Brophy has noticed it doesn’t carry the same name recognition.

“When people say they play on the Nationwide everyone knows what they’re talking about. Sometimes when I tell people I play on the Symetra Tour, I get blank stares,” Brophy said. “Hopefully, that will be changing sooner rather than later.”

If all goes as planned, Brophy won’t be playing on the Symetra Tour for long. The Symetra, currently in a Midwest swing, offers solid competition – 2005 U.S. Open champion Birdie Kim is playing in this weekend’s event in Decatur, Ill. – and significant perks, including a bump ahead in Qualifying School stages and an LPGA exemption for the top 10 on the money list. In the past, the top five earned a promotion and six through 10 received conditional LPGA status.

That’s the end goal, of course. Brophy, who finished up at Notre Dame in May 2010, is paying her dues, along with the 143 others who tee it up every week trying to find that subtle swing or putting change that trims a shot or two off their scoring average. In many ways, that’s what separates players at the highest levels of the game.

Brophy played in 13 events last year, pocketing a modest $2,568.

“It was a good learning experience. Unless you really know golf, you don’t realize how much there is to learn about it,” said Brophy, who joins Spokane’s Amy Eneroth (Mead High, Washington State University) on the tour. “It was a little like your freshman year of college. You’re kind of wide-eyed, you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know anyone out here. You have to get used to living in your car, staying with host families and taking care of travel and expenses.”

Decatur is Brophy’s fifth Symetra tournament this season. She spent the winter months in Scottsdale, playing mini-tour events and receiving instruction from Andrew Getson, an Australian who has tutored Robert Allenby, 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and even former President Bill Clinton.

“My game is so close to being phenomenal, without trying to be obnoxious,” said the charismatic Brophy, bursting into laughter as she finished her thought. “I’m hitting the ball really well. I just need to clean it up a little bit. As long as I stay positive, things are looking good.”

Getson has helped Brophy’s technical and mental approach.

“I’m not a very technical player, I’m much more of a feel player,” she said. “Andrew has helped me with simple drills I can work on and he talks to me about the mental side of things. He wants me to succeed.”

Brophy put 18,000 miles in seven months last year on her Jeep Grand Cherokee. She typically travels to tournaments with a couple of girls, cramming her vehicle with suitcases and golf bags.

“I had a hanging rack across the back, but I put so many clothes on it that it broke (Wednesday) so I had to buy a new one,” said Brophy, whose sister Ellie played at Yale and oldest sister Katie played at Notre Dame and is golf coach at Georgetown. “I’m going to have to downsize.”

Brophy enjoyed her two-episode stint on last year’s “Big Break Ireland,” but wishes she had lasted longer.

“I hit a ball in the water and it was game over, thanks for playing,” she said. “It was a great experience, the chance to go to Ireland and play, being part of the production and working with Golf Channel. If you were to tell me I’d get kicked off in the second show, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

She’s trying to make her own breaks on the Symetra Tour. It requires financial assistance from sponsors and family and endless hours spent refining her game. She’s paying particular attention to shots from 100 yards and in.

“That’s the difference between a 68 and a 72,” she said.

“This is a lot of fun for me and it’ll be more fun when I’m playing better,” Brophy said. “This is the time to do it. I know if I weren’t out here I would watch these girls and think I was better than them. I’m going to give it all I’ve got while I can.”