It feels like that gut feeling is never wrong.
No matter how much you try to ignore it, it never leaves you. But I could never have imagined the extent of what was coming my way. My college coach sat me down and my mum was on the phone. That’s when the thoughts ran around my head…Why wouldn’t she just call me herself? No warning for this phone call? None of this sounded like my mum. She was nearly 5,000 miles away in Northern Ireland. She told me that my dad had cancer and he was going for a surgery but he was going to be ok. I didn’t know what to say..what to do..how to function. Tears flooded from my eyes. All I wanted to do was board the next flight home and be with my dad. I felt useless, I felt like I was in the dark. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t able to offer my support.
Managing this journey while being away from home was tough. I didn’t know what to do, my dad assured me that I had to keep going with my life, that he was strong and following my golf scores was the highlight of his day. I guess you always are hopeful, you always think things will get better. I had been through this journey before with my mum through her breast cancer. That went away, things got better, treatment had worked. This felt different though. I was away from home, I relied on what my family told me. The one thing I could never understand was why my dad never could go back to work, why he was constantly getting infections, why he was too weak for chemotherapy after his surgery. I had the feeling that things were worse than I thought.
My mum came out to Augusta to watch me play the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. I felt comfort in seeing her, I felt safe, like everything was going to be ok. The first conversation we had was about how my dad was.
She said he had a bad infection but it was under control with the medicine. Again…that gut feeling, I felt she wasn’t telling me something. I asked her question after question, she told me she didn’t want to ruin my week. I begged her to tell me and she did. My dad’s cancer had spread and it was terminal.
My goal that week was to get onto TV. I wanted my dad to get to watch me, I wasn’t sure if that was the last time he would get the chance to see me play. I had a good week, I was in contention and he got to see me play on TV. That was very special to me.
The next months were difficult. I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to be at home. But I was just about to turn professional, something I had dreamed of since I was a young girl when my dad introduced me to the game. I didn’t feel like I could enjoy the moment. I wanted everything to be perfect, I wanted to show my dad that I was on a good path, that when he left me that everything was going to be ok. I stressed for months over sponsor invites, a schedule I would play, management companies and sponsors. It all felt so new to me. Anxiety started to creep in and I felt overwhelmed.
I played some of the worst golf of my career at stage 2 of LPGA Q school. I wasn’t even close to advancing. I was more relieved when the week was over. The week prior I had the worst anxiety I had ever experienced. I couldn’t function on or off the course, anxiety crippled my body daily. I wanted this more than anything, I have never put myself under that much pressure before. I wanted to get on the LPGA before I lost my dad, that was my main goal. I felt like I had failed, I felt I let him down and was a disappointment. Mentally everything was building. I flew home and tried to hide from everyone except my family.
I said goodbye to my dad on the 3rd of December. We buried him on the 5th of December and I boarded a plane on the 6th December to fulfil his final wish. I can’t put into words how hard it was to get on that plane. I couldn’t even process what had happened and I was broken beyond words. Without a doubt it was the hardest period of my life, it felt like not many things in life could hurt this bad. I was putting a smile on my face, acting like everything was ok and hoping nobody at Q School found out about my dad.
I doubled the last and this meant that I missed my full Ladies European Tour card by 1 shot. Any other time before this would have felt like the end of the world to me. But this time it didn’t. It felt different. It was just golf, nothing could compare to the hurt I already felt. I was proud. Proud to fulfil my dad’s final wish, proud of fighting with every bit of strength I had, proud of getting on that plane.
I made the foolish decision of downloading social media after the event. I remember reading many negative comments on various platforms about failing to get my full tour card. It felt like a knife going through my already shattered heart. I couldn’t even put into words the pain I was in and this just added to it. That feeling of being proud of myself just washed away, it was a forgotten memory, all I could think about was being a failure.
Everything in my life felt like it was going wrong, spiralling out of control. It felt like a nightmare. The mental burden and issues kept mounting. I blamed myself for months.
I blamed myself for my thoughts, my feelings and the loss of control over my emotions.
Questions raced through my mind as I hated myself more. Why didn’t I just take the time off at the start? Why didn’t I seek help when all this happened? Why did I get on that plane to go to Q school? Why didn’t I listen to all the advice that people gave me? Why am I struggling this much with the grief?
2 responses to “The Beginning”
Hi Olivia, you have come through a huge challenge in your young life, something that none us should have to face. However a strong spirit and undoubted courage have pulled through with flying colours, I can only applaud you for coming out and telling us the very hard road you have travelled, it’s an outstanding example to us all.
Love and best wishes from your Enniskillen.
Olivia, you boarding that plane to go to Q school, as dificult as it must have been shows what a strong person you are.
Keep on fighting, you will get there.