May was a hectic month for Amelia Garvey, the 5-foot-9 inch calm and lighthearted former University of Southern California (USC) golfer. She turned 21-years-old, graduated from USC with a degree in communication and became a professional golfer all in one week.
That week is just one example of how Garvey has adapted throughout her entire life.
The plastic set of golf clubs
Born in Manchester, England, Garvey and her family moved to Christchurch, New Zealand when she was five. Her father, Lee Garvey, was offered a new job that he felt would be a better place for his children.
Garvey played every sport imaginable as she grew up until her father bought her a set of plastic golf clubs. Without any practice, Garvey started swinging the clubs and her father soon realized there was some talent there.
“He kinda was a bit shocked with how good I was swinging it, and he said, ‘OK, well, let’s maybe get you out to a golf course,’” Garvey said. “I just started with some little junior program at a small course near my house.”
Her father was right — Garvey did have a special talent. As she travelled the world competing in tournaments, Garvey found herself ranked third as an amateur in high school and in 2017 was ranked first at the New Zealand Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
It didn’t start to register to Garvey that she could go far in golf until she and her mom, Beverly Garvey, attended a tournament called Junior Worlds in San Diego, Calif. It’s when both were shocked at what was ahead for Garvey and her family.
“It was really overwhelming. To be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect. And all of a sudden, I had like 15 coaches watching me,” Garvey said. “Obviously, it’s a big tournament where coaches go out and recruit. My mom came out with me to that tournament, and she had no idea either.”
She joked at how her mom wouldn’t be able to know a bad shot or a good shot in golf at that time and definitely didn’t know what to say to the group of coaches approaching her about her daughter.
“It was a bit of a shock to see the amount of people, and then even there were parents of the other players who Amelia was playing with were making comments about Amelia and asking me if I have got her to sign up for college and things like that,” Beverly said. “I was thinking, ‘What are they talking about?’ She was just Amelia to me, and I wasn’t really thinking. And Amelia never really thought about that either.”
One of the recruiters came up to Beverly asking her about Garvey and they held a brief conversation until the recruiter walked away to observe another golfer. Beverly thought nothing of it and continued to watch her daughter play. About 10 minutes later the recruiter walked back to Beverly.
This time the conversation took a completely different turn.
“I’ll never forget what [the recruiter] said, she just turned to me and she said, ‘Mrs. Garvey, you told me your daughter was good, but you never told me she was the real deal.’” Beverly said. “And then, after maybe 10 to 15 minutes, she disappeared and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by probably nine college coaches coming to watch Amelia.”
That tournament was the beginning for Garvey. She started receiving scholarships from multiple powerhouse schools, including the University of Oklahoma. Garvey took half her college visits with her dad and half with her mom.
When she and her mom arrived at USC it was a done deal and Garvey is thankful she made the right decision, one she said that has been amazing.
“When I saw USC, it was instant. I fell in love with the place and just the whole environment. It just feels like it breeds amazing athletes and students, which it does,” Garvey said. “So I definitely knew straight away when I came on my visit that this is where I wanted to come.”
Beverly saw firsthand USC’s immense interest in her daughter and her talents. Remembering that moment still brings tears to her eyes when she visualizes the glowing happiness her daughter had knowing she was going to be a Trojan.
“I just remember us being in the hotel room and Amelia said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mum, I can’t believe that they would want me.’ Because she’s such a modest person, I said ‘Amelia, why wouldn’t they want you?’” Beverly said.
Amelia stood up on the hotel bed and started jumping up and down. She didn’t know how to contain her happiness and her mom was in awe to see how happy her daughter was with this decision.
The transition came quickly. Garvey committed to USC and, at 17, was getting ready to pack her bags for a longer absence than her family was accustomed to.
“It didn’t really hit me because Amelia, for a long time from being about 14, she had kind of gone away to play golf tournaments around the world for New Zealand. So I was used to her packing her bag and going,” Beverly said.
Habits and routines produce results
A typical day for Garvey starts at 5:30 a.m. as she travels to practice at the Rolling Hills Country Club. After a couple of hours on the course, she heads back to campus for workouts at 11 a.m. Once workouts end, she heads to class.
As Garvey now looks to change her routine to benefit her professional career, she said she would miss her collegiate habits.
“I absolutely love it; and I would get home and [couldn’t] wait to go back to the golf course the next day. So, I think that’s what makes college golf amazing,” Garvey said. “I think it’d be a lot harder if you were dragging yourself out of bed and having to go out there on your own. Just having the team around you, having the coaches there. It makes it a lot more enjoyable.”
While at USC, Amelia had several achievements beginning her first year.
She was a six-time starter during her freshman year in 2018, finishing in the top 10 once during the season and four times in the top 30. Although looking to take the confidence she had freshman year, Garvey’s sophomore year presented some challenges.
Head coach Andrea Gaston, who had been with the USC program for over 20 years, decided to take an offer from Texas A&M. USC appointed Justin Silverstein who would be with Garvey for the next three years of her career.
Her sophomore season wasn’t as favourable for her as she didn’t make the travel teams as consistently as she had in the prior season. Garvey missed about three to four travel teams in a row, resulting in personal frustration and doubts.
Halfway across the world from her family and friends, her golf career did not seem favourable at that time.
Eventually, Garvey’s doubt turned to motivation and an opportunity for her to mature not only as a player, but as a woman, she said.
“I definitely matured a lot in my sophomore year. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Now, even though at the time it felt like I wanted to go back home, I wanted to give it up here,” Garvey said. “Those few months in that semester, where I missed teams and stuff like that, it taught me so much. And it made me grow up a lot and realize that nothing’s not ever going to come easy, especially when you’re trying to be an elite athlete.”
Silverstein said Garvey overcame the tough moments through her mental approach to those frustrations.
“In the beginning, she was letting the not travelling frustrate her and that was kind of boiling over,” he said. “As she progressed, as she grew up, whenever she had a setback, she would use it as fuel and wouldn’t let it just simply kind of boil over and frustrate her. So, she changed her outlook, she really got into a lot of meditation work.”
The two-time All American
Looking back, Garvey said she is grateful for those tough lessons as it helped prepare her for her future.
She finished her career as a Trojan two-time All American and was ranked in the top 25 for world amateurs. She’s earned multiple honours from All-Pac 12 first-team honours.
Silverstein has seen the evolution of Garvey firsthand and knew her talent was through the roof immediately when watching her. Silverstein said he was confident that one day Garvey would become a professional as long as she had smart habits.
Garvey spent eight months away from the United States due to coronavirus before returning in December to finish her senior year. She played in the U.S. Open Qualifying tournament and, before she knew it, snuck her way into the U.S. Open.
“Nationals were finishing around the end of May, and the U.S. Open was the first week of June. So, obviously, I was going to be done with college stuff straight after nationals,” Garvey said. “I had the opportunity to turn pro if I wanted to and play the open as a professional. I talked to my team about it and weighed up the pros and cons and there wasn’t really any [cons].”
Her parents knew her plan was always to be a professional and anticipated her to go pro at the end of the year, so it came as a little surprise when Amelia called her parents at 3:00 a.m. to tell them what her next steps were.
“She played the U.S. Open qualifying, and she qualified and the phone’s ringing,” Beverly said. “It’s Amelia yelling, ‘I qualified!’ Me and my husband are laughing, and then in the next breath she goes, ‘I’m gonna turn pro!’”
Beverly said the decision to turn pro “seemed like the right time.”
“It’s her decision and we just support her, and we’re not going to talk her out of it,” Beverly said. “We trust that her judgment is right, even though she’s only young.”
21st birthday, college graduation and professional golfing debut
The couple of weeks between May 19 to June 6 was a bit of a whirlwind for Garvey. Her family wasn’t able to attend graduation, her 21st birthday or her first tournament as a professional due to the coronavirus travel restrictions in New Zealand. Luckily, her parents sent her some gifts and watched virtually as they celebrated their daughter.
Garvey’s goal has always been to play golf at the highest level. She knows that it will be an adjustment but those around her know if anyone has the ability to do it, it’s her.
“She’s got a great work ethic, and she just needs to get a little lucky — things have to fall the right way. She’s gonna put in the smart work, which I think is an underused term in sports, not just hard work, but smart work,” Silverstein said. “I think she’s got a great chance to be one of the best players in the world.”
Garvey will always appreciate her time at USC and said it was some of the best times of her life. Now her mind has shifted from being a student-athlete to a full-time professional.
“A lot of people were asking whether I was going to take that fifth year, and I did love my time at USC. But, even just everything outside of the golf course that comes along with being a professional athlete, I realized that that’s going to take up a bit of time, too,” Garvey said. “So now that classes are gone, it’s almost being replaced by other stuff. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to hopefully a long career.”
As Garvey stood there on her first day at the U.S. Open as a professional golfer for the first time, all she could do was take the moment in and realize how far she had come.
“I just try to be as present as possible. At the end of the day, I’m going to shoot what I’m going to shoot, but [I] just go out there and enjoy it because you don’t get many opportunities like this,” Garvey said.
Silverstein calls Garvey one of the funniest people he’s ever met and bragged about her ability to lead a team in a relatively individual sport. Those characteristics assure him that Garvey will have a productive career.
“She just needs to continue doing what worked in college,” Silverstein said. “Not veering too far from that which a lot of players do and [what] they get on their own, but I think she’s so smart, [she] thinks about golf in such a well-rounded fashion. I think she’s gonna be just fine.”
Garvey has a lot of work to do as she starts her early professional career and is ready to put forth every challenge and triumph that will come along the way. But, she still has one goal that she will be striving for in the coming years specifically in 2024.
“The Olympics. It would just be a dream come true and to be there representing my country,” Garvey said. “Not a lot of people in the world can say that they are an Olympian. And once you’ve played in the Olympics, you’re an Olympian for life.”
Written by Lachelle Smith and Published with permission from USC Daily Trojan. View the original story here.