It was a different Caroline W that was making headlines this week in the world of sports and the only thing this Caroline shares in common with Rory McIlroy is the fact that they both play golf for money.
Caroline Westrup won the biggest event in Sioux Falls golf history, along with the biggest event on the 2015 Symetra Tour schedule. She almost wasn’t in the field. In fact, she almost wasn’t in professional golf.
Caroline Westrup is a 5’8″ Norwegian golfer who was born in 1986 in Sweden, Norway’s neighboring Scandinavian nation. Influenced at a young age to take up golf by her parents, Caroline followed her talents throughout a prep career that led to the United States and Florida State University. She joined the Seminole golf team in 2006.
During her time in Tallahassee, Westrup was a leader in the golf course and an active member of the campus off it. What she was able to accomplish in four years at FSU led to the school saying the following about Westrup and her accolades:
“The greatest golfer in school history who helped lead Florida State to the NCAA Tournament in each of her four seasons as a Seminole.”
As an amateur, Westrup won the 2006 World Championships where she bested LPGA Tour players Azahara Munoz, Anna Nordqvist and Sandra Gal. She looked headed toward a long and prosperous career on the LPGA Tour.
Westrup turned pro in June of 2009 where she headed straight to the developmental tours, mostly spending her time on the Symetra Tour– the LPGA’s version of Triple A. In 2010, Westrup played 16 events on the Tour, but was only able to manage a T8 has her best finish of the season.
In 2011, she decided to take on a different strategy, spending her time mostly overseas playing the Ladies European Tour (LET) and only making 6 starts on the Symetra. Her best finish was again, only a T7 overseas and didn’t win on the Symetra. She was to spend another year in the “minors.”
After a 2012 where she struggled immensely, Westrup came into 2013 poised to make her 4th year of professional golf one that produced some fruits of her labor. In her 14 starts on the Symetra Tour, she logged two top-10s, but it wasn’t enough to earn a card on the LPGA, despite possessing partial status. Maybe her 5th year would give some better results…
Or maybe not.
2014 may have been Westrup’s biggest struggle as a professional. In 10 events on Tour, she didn’t even eclipse $5,000 in earnings and at the age of 28, looked as though professional golf and the hopes of becoming a star on the world stage wasn’t going to happen. It all lead to what happened in the months leading up to the event in Sioux Falls.
Everything that happened in 2014 and earlier had Westrup doing some thinking. As a job at her alma mater opened up (for an assistant coaching job), she considered the thoughts that perhaps professional golf wasn’t in the cards. Maybe she was to give it up and pursue a career outside of playing.
But in the back of her mind, she knew what a strong year on the Symetra Tour could do and she still, like all the girls on Tour, had Sioux Falls and the GreatLIFE Challenge in her back pocket and the $210,000 purse.
And after 62 professional tries and thousands of miles traveled, Westrup strung together rounds of 67-65 (career low)-71-69 to cap off her first win.
— Symetra Tour (@ROAD2LPGA) September 6, 2015
Her career earnings on the LPGA Tour are $8,289. The win at the GreatLIFE Challenge was almost 4 times that.
It vaulted her from 55th on the money list to closing in on the top-10. With a few events remaining, Westrup has the chance to lock up the first LPGA Tour card of her career.
“This is everything I have ever dreamed of and more,” said the Westrup after her round on Sioux Falls’ Willow Run Golf Course. “Finally, finally, I can say that I won my first professional event.”
The event in Sioux Falls took a massive community effort, as hundreds of volunteers and some 2,500+ volunteer hours were needed to string together the event. The growing South Dakota metropolis was proud to play host to the rising stars of the LPGA Tour, and with the turnout and support, it was pretty obvious.
“Once again, Sioux Falls likes to lead,” said GreatLIFE CEO Tom Walsh.
It seems Caroline Westrup does too, after all.
— Symetra Tour (@ROAD2LPGA) September 7, 2015
Here was Caroline after her second round 65:
Video of Rachel Rohanna after her round of 64 (7-under):