University of Toledo golfer and New Zealand native Tammy Clelland should have a large contingent of local supporters following the 20-year-old as she lives out a dream.
Clelland is one of only two amateurs competing this week among a field of 142 LPGA members at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Clelland, a junior-to-be at UT, will tee off at 1:10 p.m. on hole No. 10 in the first round of the Farr.
Clelland earned a spot in the field after carding a two-under par 70 in a qualifier Monday at Sylvania Country Club. She is one of two individuals (out of 12) to earn a berth in the field.
"This is the biggest thing I've ever accomplished," Clelland said. "Qualifying for an LPGA tournament is very big for me. It's great representing the University. I'm very proud to represent New Zealand as well."
Clelland shot a 3-under-par 33 on the back nine to beat out 10 LPGA pros and fellow UT golfer Kim Kester.
"Her dream is to be a professional and this is a big step for her," said UT coach Nicole Hollingsworth. "I know she is capable of making the cut. She just has to show herself she is capable of doing it. I'm sure a lot of people will want to go out and watch the local kid. This is going to be a great thing. I'm sure there will be plenty of people supporting her."
Clelland is only the second UT golfer to play in the Farr. Jessica Popiel participated without going through a qualifying tournament in 1998.
"It's a dream for this to happen," Hollingsworth said. "I have not stopped talking on the phone. The e-mails are coming in from people around the country. This is very exciting for the city of Toledo."
Clelland, who came to Toledo last August, said fellow New Zealander and current UT captain Natalie Storck suggested that she play for the Rockets.
"I didn't know what to expect when I first got here," Clelland said. "But I've won three tournaments since I've been here, so I'm quite pleased with the way things are going."
Clelland battled homesickness, but still earned All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors and was named the Rockets' most valuable golfer last season. Clelland established a record for stroke average (75.65) and also set school records for lowest 18-hole score (68) and most rounds under 80 with 28.
"She really re-wrote the record book," Hollingsworth said. "I knew she was pretty good. But she was coming to a new country and experiencing different golf courses. Those are huge adjustments."
Clelland won individual titles at the Rocket Fall Classic and Eastern Kentucky Spring Invitational. She had 11 top-20 finishes and eight top-10 showings in helping produce the best season in UT history. The Rockets finished second at the MAC championships.
After winning the Fidra Midwest Collegiate Series tournament in May, Clelland then came up short in a bid to be a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women's Open in early June. She said she hit "a rough patch two weeks ago."
"I've been working on my swing. I was getting too quick on the back swing and I was losing my timing," Clelland said. "I've slowed that down. It's good to finally get the timing back."
Clelland, whose father and uncle are both golf pros in New Zealand, said she's been playing the sport since she could walk.
"My dad [Tom] taught me from the word go," Clelland said. "Most of my characteristics do come from him. I broke 100 the first time when I was 10 and that's when I thought I could really do this."
Clelland said she has played three times at Highland Meadows and said the course fits her game.
"I really like it. It suits my game well," she said. "There are a lot of long holes and it takes a lot of good drives."
"More than anything, it will come down to how she gets started and how she handles the pressure," Hollingsworth said.
Clelland said her next goal is to make the cut from 144 golfers to 70 after tomorrow's second round.
"It will all be in my head," Clelland said. "They're pros and when the going gets tough, they can handle it. I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle it mentally. I don't know how nervous I'll be. I just have to keep myself calm."
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