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rachel heck

Amateur golf star won’t turn professional after ‘gut-wrenching’ decision

Rachel Heck’s amateur career promised much in the professional game, but the Stanford University senior has revealed golf is no longer her priority…

 

Rachel Heck developed quite the amateur golf CV in America and always envisaged her name in lights and etched on US Open trophies in the future.

In a life consumed by golf from her younger years, Heck became the NCAA Individual champion with the Stanford University Women’s team in 2021 and the NCAA Team champion in 2022. She has won the Curtis Cup with the USA twice and played in the US Women’s Open in 2017 aged 15 – the youngest player in the event.

But as she revealed in a personal letter on the No Laying Up website this week, during her senior year of college, Heck doesn’t want to play professional golf anymore and no longer dreams of winning majors and being in the Hall of Fame.

She will begin an internship in private equity after graduating from Stanford. Heck is looking forward to “new roads and new challenges,” but this path was regrettably forged by a huge injury setback which led to depression and a loss of joy on and off the course.

“Fast-forward past my first experiences playing for the United States, another major championship, and too many AJGAs to count, and now I am a junior in high school with the most pressing issue in my life being whether I would play in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur or the ANA Inspiration,” she wrote, recalling her rise in the amateur game.

“That was, however, until I suffered a back injury (in early 2023) that forced me to put the clubs down for a couple of months.

“What should have been nothing but a small roadblock on my journey as an athlete turned into an existential crisis. Without golf, I was lost. I was faced with the question, “Who am I?” Without golf, I had no idea.

“Even when I was able to start playing again, I knew something was not right. I did not recognise myself anymore, on or off the course. All my joy was gone, and all my smiles were fake. That fall, I became severely depressed. In that period of darkness, I realised I needed something more than golf, and I vowed that I would find it.

“I told my parents I wanted, perhaps, to try Air Force ROTC. They told me I was crazy. It would be simply impossible to keep up with Stanford academics, Division I golf, a social life, and the military.”

rachel heck

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Rachel Heck: Injury led to a new career path

In a remarkable twist of events that not even her parents could’ve foreseen, Heck embarked on the Air Force ROTC which is a college course that prepares students to become officers in the US Air Force.

But even if Heck maintained her love for the game and didn’t change her career path, she admits her body wasn’t guaranteed to hold up during what would presumably be countless years of LPGA Tour events and major championships.

Having reached No.3 in the world amateur rankings and recorded eight collegiate victories, Heck will take her Political Science degree into her new career, as well as her status as a Lieutenant of the US Air Force.

She hasn’t ruled out competing in more tournaments in the amateur sphere including USGA Championships but, for now, Heck is ticking down towards the days until golf is no longer the be-all-and-end-all.

“It’s hard to imagine how it will feel to put my clubs away at the end of the season. How will it feel to stand over my last putt? How will I feel waving back to my teammates one last time? I still look forward to playing amateur events and, hopefully, many more USGA Championships,” she wrote.

“However, it will be undeniably different. Taking a step away from the game that has given me everything has been a gut-wrenching decision. To say golf has given me the most incredible memories is to minimize the experiences I ask God every day why I deserve.

“I was strongly considering attributing my decision to my injuries. It is true that even if I wanted to, I do not know if my body would hold up on tour. But frankly, after a couple of years of painful deliberation, I have come to realise that I do not want to play professional golf.

“I do not want a life on the road and in the public eye. I no longer dream of the US Open trophies and the Hall of Fame. And I realise now that these dreams were never what my dad intended when he first put a club in my hand.

“He pushed me when I was young so that I could find myself in the position I am right now: Stepping into the future equipped with the skills to tackle any challenge and the courage to pave my own path. He insisted I lived a ‘normal life’ so that I could recognise that true happiness does not come from accolades but from the love of those around me.

“He gave me everything so that I could leave college feeling as though I had the world in the palm of my hand. In the spring he and my mum will pin on my Lieutenant bars. They will watch me walk across the stage and receive my Stanford degree. I will begin an internship in private equity. Golf did, indeed, take me far.”

Be sure to read the full blog on the No Laying Up website.

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Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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