Emma de Groot began playing golf as a teenager, initially enticed by the hot chips and chocolate milkshake she enjoyed pre game! Today, she plays on the Ladies Professional Golfing Association tour in the USA. She sat down with Focus to tell us more.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Before moving to America to pursue a career in professional golf, I grew up in Coffs Harbour. My parents and Nan still live here, and so every time I am in Australia, I can’t wait to get back to Coffs.
What is the best thing about living in this area?
I spend my life travelling to different places, but there’s something about Coffs Harbour that I just love. It’s got everything you could want. From gorgeous golf courses, to stunning beaches, Coffs ticks every box. I love to come home and head to the beaches in Sawtell, to play golf at Coffs Golf Club, and to see how much it changes every time I come back. I love that it’s small enough to make me feel like I’m in my own little beach town, yet big enough to have all I could need when I am here. Plus, it’s home, so it will always have a place in my heart.
When did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf at the age of 13. Prior to that, I had never really had much interest. To be honest, my favourite part of golf when I first started was the $2 hot chips and chocolate milkshake I got to have before practice each day.
I played soccer and softball from a young age and loved the team sport atmosphere, so golf never struck me as something I would really care too much for.
However, after playing for a few months, I started doing after school squads, saw improvements and basically have been hooked ever since.
What is it about the sport that you find addictive?
I think the same things I find addictive about the sport are the same things I can’t stand about the sport. It’s so complex, there are so many parts of the game to try and master, and it doesn’t matter how great you are, there’s always something you can do better, something to work on. I have grown to love the fact that win or lose, it’s on me. My results are a reflection of how hard I work, not how hard my team works.
What were some of the highlights of your early career when you were starting out in the sport?
I was never a stand out junior. I started later than most, and therefore I spent my first four or five years playing catch up – always being “just not good enough”. I began to make some NSW state teams at around the age of 17, but it wasn’t until I went to college that my career really took off. I had six wins and numerous top 10s in college, and that really gave me the confidence and belief that I could compete at a professional level.
Where is your favourite course to play on the Coffs Coast and why?
I spend so much of my year overseas, so when I come home I love nothing more than to go back to my roots and play at Coffs Harbour Golf Club. They have supported me 100% since the very beginning of my career, and continue to do all they can to nurture and encourage me as I move forward. I have a great relationship with a lot of the members, and the staff go out of their way to make me feel comfortable. There are so many beautiful golf courses around the Coffs Coast, but there’s nothing like going back to CHGC and really feeling like I am home.
Can you tell us a bit about the LPGA and what is like to play on it?
The LPGA is amazing, and I relish every opportunity to play events out there. I have been fortunate enough to play in quite a few events out there over my career, and every time I do, I leave feeling motivated and refreshed.
You are treated like golfing royalty. From the sponsors, to the food, to the locker rooms, to the physiotherapists and trainers that are there to help with anything you need, every single aspect is top class.
Last year you conducted a crowd funding campaign to help with the costs of travelling; was it successful?
It was incredibly successful, and I can’t thank enough all those who donated to help with the cause. People don’t realise how expensive professional golf is when you’re not one of the top in the world. It’s a real grind week in and week out just to make ends meet and be able to afford to enter the tournament the following week.
My GoFundMe campaign helped me raise enough money to be able to play with some more freedom, and not have to stress so much about each dollar and where my next entry fees or petrol money would come from. Sometimes those who make it are not necessarily those with the most talent, but those who have the funds to be able to keep pushing through until they reach their potential – and thanks to the help of those both in Australia and America who reached into their wallets to help, I was able to close out a pretty successful year over in America.
Is one of the difficulties of golf to be able to put together a strong game mentally, as well as physically?
At my level, the game is almost 100% mental. Everyone has put in the hours, everyone can hit the ball great, chip great, make putts, but it’s the ones who can keep their composure and do it when they need to that come out on top.
If you stand on the driving range before a tournament round, you wouldn’t be able to separate a lot of the players in terms of talent and ability, but tournaments aren’t won on the range.
It’s about self belief, discipline, and having the ability to quiet your mind and relax your body when the moment calls for it. These are things that don’t come naturally to a lot of people, and so just as I practice the physical aspects of the game every day, I also have drills and exercises to help me get the most out of my mental game.
What advice would you give to other young women who may be considering a career as a professional golfer?
I will always say, if you’re passionate about something, then you have to go for it. It’s not all roses and you have to be willing to make countless sacrifices over the years, but if it’s what you want, then those sacrifices won’t seem big in comparison to your dreams. Golf has already given me so much, and I am only 27 years old. I never would have had the experiences I have, and those I am yet to have, without golf and without the courage to chase my passion.
Who do you attribute most of your success to?
There have been so many people who have helped me throughout each stage of my career. But the constant rock, through thick and thin, has been my family. From sub junior golf at 6:30am every Saturday, to college titles in America, to the LPGA, my family has been on this journey with me and has helped me both emotionally and financially whenever I needed it. Professional golf is a roller coaster; there are so many highs and so many lows, and they ride the ride with me every day of every week of every year, and I am beyond grateful for all they have done for me. I am 100% sure I wouldn’t be half the golfer and person I am today without their love and support.
I also have to give a huge amount of credit to my full-time caddy/manager, Ashley Sholer. 2015 was the first year I had her on the bag full-time, and the change it made to my game was incredible. Having someone like Ash, who travels with me to each event and pushes me every day to be the best player I can be has been so important to my progress. Being so far away from home, it’s nice to have someone who I know has my best interests at heart and believes in me, probably more than I believe in myself at times.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to keep playing golf as long as I can be successful and as long as I have the passion for it. My ultimate goal is to play full-time on the LPGA, and one day to represent Australia in the Olympic Games. The longer I have played golf, however, the more I realise that balance is so important. Golf is not the be all and end all of my life. I want to have a happy life off the golf course too. I want to get married, maybe have a family, and enjoy all that life has to offer.