Waynesburg graduate Rohanna gaining footing in world of pro golf
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Rachel Rohanna's professional golf career started with a bang.
Just a few days before the Waynesburg graduate was going to compete in her first event on the Symetra Tour — the LPGA's equivalent of the PGA's developmental Web.com Tour — she and a friend were driving in the vicinity of Mesa, Ariz., where the tournament was being held. It was rush hour, and traffic merging onto the freeway had slowed to almost a stop. The car Rohanna was riding in did likewise.
The car approaching from behind did not.
“My friend saw it coming and said, ‘Rach, this girl is going to hit us, so be ready,' ” said Rohanna, who already had battled back and neck discomfort over the previous two years.
Though the vehicles were badly damaged in the crash, the occupants walked away — more shaken than injured.
To that point, everything leading up to her pro debut had gone as Rohanna hoped. She graduated from Ohio State in December, a semester early, so she could get a head start on the 2013 golf season. She took some time off to rest, then gave up her amateur status in January.
And though she does not have full exempt status on the Symetra Tour — she failed to advance to the final stage of qualifying school, which would have given her full status — enough spots were open to allow her to join the field for the season opener last week.
Rohanna, who turned 22 on Friday, shot a disappointing 79 the first day. She admitted she wasn't in the best frame of mind. She had been playing for only two weeks following her layoff, so there was rust. The car accident hadn't helped, either.
There was also the realization that, unlike during her days as an amateur, she was depending on golf for her livelihood.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘I really have to focus and make this putt because this could be the difference in a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand dollars,' ” Rohanna said.
She managed to put all that aside and rebounded with a 1-under-par 71 on Saturday to make the cut. She wound up tied for 50th and earned her first professional paycheck: $421.
Like all “minor league” athletes, Symetra Tour pros aren't exactly living on easy street. Last year, only 16 players made more than $30,000. To help her get established, a couple of Greene County businesses are giving Rohanna some financial backing. She said there are several others interested in providing monetary aid.
John Garber, Rohanna's golf coach at Waynesburg, isn't surprised by the support she has received from home. She made quite a splash for her school by winning a state title and two WPIAL crowns.
“I think that everyone in Greene County and the Central Greene School District is behind her,” said Garber. “I think our county has supported (all its athletes), and I know that we will do the same for Rachel.”
How long she needs to rely on help from home will be up to her. Rohanna said she'll be able to play in at least the next three or four events. If she continues to make cuts, she can improve her status for when the tour reshuffles its player rankings. Players without full exempt status are re-ranked twice during the season. Players with the best results will get a higher priority in the pecking order when fields are filled out for each tournament.
The next Symetra Tour event isn't until late March, giving Rohanna plenty of time to fine-tune her game. She's still based in Pennsylvania, so she'll spend some of the interim working at the RMU Island Sports Center golf dome under the tutelage of her grandfather and swing coach, Dick Schwartz, a former pro golfer.
Schwartz has been the ideal coach. Rohanna said that if he's not around to see her practicing, all she has to do is pick up the phone and tell him which way the ball is going. He can fix it sight unseen.
“Usually she gets a little quick with her backswing,” Schwartz said. “Tempo is a big thing with Rachel. She's got a good, basic, simple swing. No special moves, nothing that can really go wrong.
“You don't have to tell her anything twice, and she'll go ahead and work on it.”
Before returning to competition on the Symetra Tour, Rohanna will attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour's Founders Cup, which will be played March 14-17 in Phoenix. The qualifying round for that event will be at Longbow Golf Club — the same course where Rohanna just made her pro debut.
Rohanna has played in two LPGA events while still an amateur: the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. She missed the cut in both.
Playing alongside the best women in the world was a valuable learning experience for Rohanna. But her first event as a pro gave her something even more important than knowledge: confidence.
“I had only been playing for a week and a half,” she said. “I made some really bad shots that I probably wouldn't make in midseason, but I still made the cut.
“Making the cut and making some money, I knew that I could hang with these girls for sure. A couple months from now, as long as I'm still healthy, I think I'll be OK.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- The IRS scandal: Do the Lois Lerner emails still exist?
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Customers anxious for details about Highmark transition plan for W. Pa.
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- In last preseason game, a final audition for some Steelers
- Jury deliberating sex assault charges against ice cream shop owner
- Annual Rib Festival at Heinz Field promises plentiful good food, music
- McKeesport Area teacher fired amid sex scandal returns to school
- Starkey: Bucs still battlin’
- Penguins GM insists new coach Johnston was no afterthought