After playing a starring role in Wake Forest’s first ever National Championship win and earning All-American honours, Ireland’s Lauren Walsh is now eyeing the next big step in her career: turning pro and competing on the LPGA Tour. She’ll continue using Clippd. Here’s why.
Special young women who have demonstrated “exceptional leadership, personal character and dedication throughout their college careers”. The first ambassadors for the ANNIKA Foundation’s inaugural Development Program were, it’s safe to say, required to clear a high bar.
In May, Lauren Walsh of Ireland and Wake Forest was named as one of those ambassadors. Along with three other college leavers joining the professional ranks, she will get access to practice and play at Annika Sorenstam’s progressive Old Barnwell facility in Aiken, South Carolina. The four will also receive free housing for the first year of the program and $10,000 per year to cover tournament fees and travel.
And then there’s the small matter of an all-time great acting as a mentor. For Lauren, who has represented GB & Ireland in the Curtis Cup and performed at the pinnacle of collegiate golf, it represents the perfect foundation from which to build a career as a tournament pro.
“I'll be moving to Aiken later this year,” she explains from her family home in Ireland where she is enjoying some downtime and working with her coach Shane O'Grady. “I’ll go to the first stage of Q School for the LPGA Tour at the end of August, and then hopefully go from there to second stage and then onto third stage, which kind of gets me through to December.
“The goal is long term to play on the LPGA Tour," Lauren continues. "It can be a process to get there, so I'll take Q school, see how that goes this year and see whether that brings me to the Epson Tour next year or straight onto the LPGA.” Her first appearance in the paid ranks will come at the LPGA’s Dana Open in Ohio on July 13-16. As Head Coach of the NCAA champions, Wake Forest's Kim Llewellyn could select one player for an invite to the tournament. She chose Lauren.
Lauren’s performance at Greyhawk in the NCAA finals has given her plenty of confidence that she can succeed. Leading at the halfway stage of the individual tournament after a pair of 67s, she made an 11 on the par-5 4th in the third round but bounced back to play the remaining holes in level par. She then shot a 69 in the final round to finish just four adrift of back-to-back champion Rose Zhang.
“Greyhawk was some of the best golf I played in my college college career,” Lauren confirms. "Individually, getting myself into contention was great. I had one bad hole that kind of put me out of it but, you know, I was right up there with Rose and everybody else who was in contention all week.
“That gave me great confidence going into the matchplay,” she adds. “I played really nicely all week but unfortunately, I didn't get to finish out either of my first two matches because my teammates had already won!” She smiles because consolation came in having the title-clinching putt in the final.
Lauren credits Clippd with playing a big part in her being able to recapture the form that brought her an All-American nomination as both a freshman and a sophomore. It was a process that started with Associate Head Coach Ryan Potter informing her that he was putting all of her 2022 data into Clippd. Wake had recently become a partner and Potter wanted to make a plan.
"I really enjoy Clippd, the different graphics and trend lines. I like how it breaks down the Importance to Scoring."
Lauren studied mathematical business, so her mindset is in statistics and data. "I need it to back up what I'm thinking," she says. "I've always been that way. I really enjoy Clippd, the different graphics and trend lines. I like how it breaks down the Importance to Scoring and the difference that will make in my overall profile. That really appeals to me."
“After that chat, I knew I knew what I had to do,” Lauren says. “I had to fix my golf swing to make sure I could hit it straighter, hit more greens. I knew I could hole more putts, make more birdies. It sounded very simple. I just had to put in the hours to make it happen.”
In typical style, Lauren worked hard all summer in Ireland with O’Grady, who also coaches Leona Maguire. She returned to Wake Forest and promptly finished second in her first tournament of the season, the prestigious ANNIKA Intercollegiate. “It was probably the strongest field we play, if you take nationals out of it, so it was nice to see the improvement quickly.”
What Clippd showed them was that if Lauren could give herself more opportunities, she was more than capable of holing plenty of putts inside 15 feet.“It's something that I didn't necessarily recognise myself,” she admits. “Clippd helped me to see that if I put myself in position more, then I can unleash this weapon of my putting. I saw that at different moments. I played in the Curtis Cup and holed everything that week. It's one of the things we joked about on the team. Once I hole one, the bucket's open and I can drain them from anywhere.
“One of the things that Clippd does really well is it doesn't only show you what you have to work on, it shows you what you do when you're playing really well, when you're playing your best. To keep pushing your strengths forward is really important.”
Lauren confirms she has seen big improvements over the last 10 months. “I got my long game to a point where I was driving it so nicely, I was hitting so many fairways that my OTT Importance to Scoring has decreased.
"Clippd shows you what you do when you're playing your best. To keep pushing your strengths forward is really important.”
“Clippd gives me confidence to keep doing what I'm doing. I was sure that if I could keep giving myself chances, the low scores would come, and I would become more consistent. And that just built my confidence up and up. Then it just kept building until Greyhawk.”
Now, though, it’s time for Lauren to put her amateur career to one side and focus on the next big challenge: establishing herself in the professional game. Luckily, one of her inspirations will be close at hand.
“[Annika] has been so successful and probably the greatest player to ever play," she says. "The time that she gives back to the game and everything she does around the game is so special and so important to keep in mind. It's easy when golf is your job to get consumed in all of that. But she still found a way to give back to the game. That's really cool and something that is inspiring to me.”
Now, Lauren Walsh wants to do some inspiring of her own.