Posted by: Dan Domsic

Michigan State University graduate and Big 10 Champion, Aimee Neff is coming home to compete with golfers around the world at the My Marsh Classic, a new tournament at the Hawthorns Golf and Country Club.

The tournament is part of the Symetra tour, a proving ground for women looking to advance to the LPGA – the highest level of women’s golf in the United States.

Neff started golfing at the age of 10, with the help of both her grandparents and parents. Like most dedicated athletes, Neff loves the sport’s competitive atmosphere.

Before hitting the links for the Spartans, Neff helped Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School’s team win a state title in 2006 – her senior year. That accomplishment is still one of Neff’s favorite memories of competitive golf in the region.

Since graduating from MSU, Neff faces challenges from the golf scene that include managing time, scheduling practice sessions, getting to know the other golfers on the tour and building confidence.

In a game where a team can be down 25 strokes and end up winning by three (an actual experience Neff had), how has Neff handled the pressure of competition since graduating college?

Balance.

Neff said playing other sports to add mental stamina and maintain physical shape is a plus.

She also alleviates the sport’s pressures by participating in outreach work and involving herself with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“Being able to talk about my faith so openly has really been something that has encouraged me greatly to be continuing in golf,” she said.

Neff said she believes that as an athlete she can be a role model for others and be an advocate for those going through tough times.

“I think that it’s really important,” Neff said. “The reason why we’re given this life is to be able to impact others.”

As the My Marsh Classic approaches, Neff would tell other aspiring golfers to focus on one shot at a time.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

“It’s a process.”

For professional golfer Brittany Kelly, coming home to tee off at the Hawthorns Golf and Country Club could mean a chance at touring with the LPGA.

Kelly is competing in the inaugural My Marsh Classic at the Hawthorns. The Classic is a tournament that is part of the Symetra tour – a “developmental” league similar to the LPGA.

Kelly, a Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate, started golfing at 8 years old. By the time middle school was over, Kelly chose to continue golfing competitively over every other sport she played.

On one of the Hawthorns putting greens, Kelly committed to playing golf for Ball State University. Four years of competitive golf went by, and two weeks after her graduation (which she missed for an NCAA tournament), Kelly was golfing on a professional level.

After years of competition, what drives Kelly to stay in the game?

In short:  getting to the next level.

“When you go out and you play around, you might shoot the best round of your life,” Kelly said, “but there’s always one stroke you know you could have done better.”

Perfecting a single putt is a short-term goal, but Kelly has a long game. Playing solid golf at the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open and My Marsh Classic are short-term goals. But the two events are among the 14 Kelly plans on competing at this season.

By placing in the top 25 of those tournaments and with even stronger finishes, Kelly could find her name on the top 10 money list, qualifying her for the LPGA once again.

It won’t be easy.

Kelly said one of the hardest aspects of touring and playing on a professional level is the lack of a support system akin to a team, but luckily, Kelly’s friends and family are just a phone call away.

Like other sports, golf leads to players developing an “everyone for themselves” mentality.

“It’s a little more cut-throat here,” she said.

But according to Kelly, championships are won one putt at time. Some days could be the best a golfer ever plays and others the worst.

Nevertheless, her own motivation and golf’s level of competition keep Kelly going.

“Don’t give up on the game,” she said.