Out­doors

Emerg­ing from the shadow of her LPGA vet­eran sis­ter, Madi­son Pres­sel looks for­ward to her fu­ture on the fair­ways

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY KEN HAG­GERTY

Driv­ing Force

Ask Madi­son Pres­sel about be­ing the younger sib­ling of a well-known sport­ing sis­ter and you may ex­pect a slew of psy­chob­a­b­ble ram­blings con­cern­ing ri­val­ries and per­ceived child­hood slights. But for the Tampa na­tive who, at the age of six moved to Boca Ra­ton with the rest of her sports­mad fam­ily, the re­al­ity is re­fresh­ingly au con­traire.

Sit­ting in the club­house of the Plan­ta­tion Golf and Coun­try Club in Venice, Florida, on the eve of the Stage II LPGA Qual­i­fier Tour­na­ment, the 21-year-old blonde, with an easy-go­ing man­ner so bereft in many of her fel­low pro­fes­sion­als’ per­sonal makeup, had noth­ing but praise for her older sis­ter Mor­gan Pres­sel, who has pro­vided a con­stant source of sport­ing ad­vice and inspiratio­n. “Mor­gan and I are very close,” ex­plains Madi­son. “We talk about ev­ery­thing be­cause she

went through the same ex­pe­ri­ences I’m go­ing through right now. She knows the pres­sures that come with try­ing to be­come a pro­fes­sional golfer.”

But for her grand­fa­ther’s ad­vice, Madi­son’s pro­fes­sional life could have turned out far dif­fer­ent. “My mom coached ten­nis pro­fes­sion­ally, and that’s the sport I played when my fam­ily moved from Tampa,” says Madi­son. “But my grand­fa­ther thought I was too slow.” Laugh­ing now at what many would have per­ceived as a pa­ter­fa­mil­ias-type char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion, Mor­gan drew strength from his blunt as­sess­ment.

“So I fol­lowed Mor­gan’s path and took up golf. I wasn’t forced,” Madi­son ad­mits. “I took golf up as a hobby at first and re­ally didn’t take the sport se­ri­ously un­til I was in my early teens.”

Sadly, fate of­fered a tragic twist to Madi­son’s com­mit­ment. “My mom passed away when I was 12,” she ex­plains. “Right around that time I was see­ing the suc­cess Mor­gan was hav­ing. Golf sim­ply be­came my out­let. I knew my mom would want me to be suc­cess­ful and to take part in some­thing I would en­joy. So I started look­ing at golf more se­ri­ously. I en­tered tour­na­ments, suc­ceeded, and I be­gan to love the game.”

I LEFT TEXAS KNOW­ING I ACHIEVED WHAT I WANTED TO ACHIEVE. I LIVED MY DREAM. IT WAS AN AWE­SOME TIME OF MY LIFE AND A GREAT HONOR TO REP­RE­SENT THE UNIVER­SITY OF TEXAS’ ATH­LET­ICS DEPART­MENT.”

Glid­ing through ju­nior golf tour­na­ments through­out South Florida in­clud­ing Naples and Fort My­ers, the fledg­ling golf­ing phe­nom found her­self be­ing re­cruited by var­i­ous col­lege pro­grams as her high school ca­reer came to an end. “Luck­ily I was re­cruited by quite a few schools,” ex­plains Madi­son. “Ed­u­ca­tion has al­ways been an im­por­tant fo­cus in my life. My fam­ily and I took a de­ci­sion to use my golf­ing abil­ity to get me into the best aca­demic school I could. I was able to achieve a de­gree and play golf at the same time for four years,” she says.

It wasn’t long be­fore the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin be­came Madi­son’s home from home in 2009. But her de­ci­sion wasn’t based on the Longhorns golf­ing suc­cess.

—MADI­SON PRES­SEL

Quite the op­po­site, in fact, as Madi­son ex­plains. “I wanted to be the rea­son Texas golf came back on the map,” she says. “The ladies golf team had strug­gled since 2004. I sim­ply wanted to help bring the glory days back.”

And she did. While study­ing for a de­gree in fi­nance with a spe­cial­iza­tion in real es­tate, Madi­son, un­der the guid­ance of Longhorns golf coach Martha Richards, helped guide the Longhorns to a Big 12 cham­pi­onship tro­phy in her 2011 sopho­more year. “I left Texas know­ing I achieved what I wanted to achieve. I lived my dream. It was an awe­some time of my life and a great honor to rep­re­sent the Univer­sity of Texas’ ath­let­ics depart­ment,” she says proudly.

A ju­bi­lant Madi­son Pres­sel at the Sol­heim Cup, a golf tour­na­ment with teams rep­re­sent­ing Europe and the U.S.

Madi­son now finds her­self at a cross­roads she fully ex­pected to meet. Suc­cess at the Venice qual­i­fy­ing event would even­tu­ally lead her to the fi­nal Qual­i­fy­ing-School tour­na­ment at the LPGA’s Day­tona Beach head­quar­ters. From there, the pos­si­bil­ity of se­cur­ing an LPGA Tour card for the com­ing sea­son and, if her pro­fes­sional life em­u­lates that of her sis­ter’s, an end­less whirligig of spon­sors, ac­cess to the world’s most en­tic­ing golf des­ti­na­tions and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.

Look­ing re­laxed on the Plan­ta­tion’s driv­ing range, Madi­son mixes eas­ily with her fel­low com­peti­tors, as high fives and hugs are the or­der of the day be­fore the busi­ness of prac­tice be­gins.

“I want golf to be my ca­reer,” ad­mits Madi­son who shoots 350 yards from the tee. “I’m go­ing to give it my all and I hope it works out.” How­ever, life as a golf pro­fes­sional is not with­out its haz­ards both fi­nan­cially and per­son­ally as she knows only too well.

”I’ve been lucky,” she says. “I went to Texas know­ing I wanted to make a ca­reer play­ing golf, but ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant too. I wanted to make sure I had a back-up plan. I’ll go out on tour for a few years, but if I feel I‘m not get­ting a re­turn on my in­vest­ment, then I have a de­gree to fall back on and I can make another ca­reer for my­self.”

As for life on the road for a fi­nan­ciallystra­pped rookie, she has no il­lu­sions as to the hard­ships that po­ten­tially await her. “It’s so ex­pen­sive to live this life. My sis­ter has friends play­ing on the LPGA Tour who, year af­ter year, can barely make ends meet. And then they’re strug­gling out on the course be­cause they’re wor­ried about their per­sonal lives. You have to be men­tally strong to play this game suc­cess­fully. If you’re wor­ried about money, then your game is go­ing to suf­fer,” she says.

“So far I’ve been able to avoid those is­sues. But it can be lonely out there. You’re away from your fam­ily for long pe­ri­ods of time and you’re stay­ing in crappy ho­tels week af­ter week. It’s very tough and not glam­orous at all,” Madi­son says with a look of de­ter­mi­na­tion. Ken Hag­gerty is a reg­u­lar cor­re­spon­dent for the Sara­sota Her­ald-Tri­bune. A Maine na­tive, he also spent 15 years as a jour­nal­ist in Lon­don, work­ing as an ed­i­tor on a broad range of sport and life­style mag­a­zines.

68

At the Plan­ta­tion Golf and Coun­try Club with Michelle Shin, a Wake For­est Univer­sity alum and Fort My­ers na­tive

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