WHAT doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The adage could well apply to Rebecca Artis’ professional career. The 29-year-old is reaping the reward for eight years of perseverance after she finally collected an LPGA Tour card on her fifth attempt at qualifying school three weeks before Christmas.
The relief was on display when Artis hugged her husband/caddie Geoff on the 18th green at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida. Tears flowed freely at the culmination of a dream to play the world’s richest professional tour for women.
It’s been a lengthy journey for the daughter of Keith and Roz Flood, who grew up alongside four brothers in the small country town of Coonabarabran on the New South Wales Central Western Slopes. Rebecca took up golf at the age of 10 after watching her father play at the local course. After showing promise, Keith used to take time off work from his bakery to drive Rebecca across the country, caddieing for her in junior tournaments.
After a distinguished amateur career, Artis turned professional in 2010 and immediately found her feet on the Ladies European Tour where she is a two-time winner and reached a career high of No.100 on the Rolex Rankings.
But Artis was unfulfilled, knowing the world’s best female golfers were in America. In 2017, she abandoned the tour where she had accumulated career earnings of €489,768 ($753,385). With her husband’s full support, they relocated to the States for a concerted effort at opening the door to the LPGA.
Deep down, they knew Rebecca had never given it her best shot. The first two times at Q-school she had been tired and mentally drained from playing all season in Europe. On the third try she finished 46th, one place away from receiving a conditional card. At the fourth attempt she hit the ball well but putted poorly, switching from a conventional grip to left-hand low midway through the tournament in a sign of desperation.
Artis had proven she could handle the heat, winning the 2013 Helsingborg Open by one stroke over Solheim Cup player Caroline Hedwall. Two years later she fired a closing 66 to beat a strong field to win the 2015 Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, holding off Norwegian superstar Suzann Pettersen by two strokes.
Artis’ plan was to secure an LPGA card via the secondary Symetra Tour, which awards full playing status to the top-10 on the moneylist. It also involved adjusting to the different American courses and tournament set-ups with the expectation of gaining an LPGA card.
By comparison with Europe, it requires a different mindset to play well on the Symetra Tour where the fields are deeper, the rough is longer, the purses smaller and the world ranking points fewer.
It was tough for Artis, who played 21 events, earning just $US20,463. She was 41st on the moneylist as her world ranking fell to No.459. And she was still without an LPGA card.
That meant going back to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament for a fifth time. And Artis knew time wasn’t on
“I’m 29 and married, so I was getting to the stage where I feel like if I didn’t get the job done in the next couple of years, then it was probably time to re-think. Geoff and I want a family and stuff.”
This time, however, she was determined not to fail. Artis spent two weeks on the Gold Coast working on her swing with coach Gary Edwin, the renowned instructor who inspired the likes of Peter Senior and Peter Lonard with his right-sided swing theory. She took putting advice from Luke Edwin, with former US PGA Tour player Gavin Coles acting as Gary’s “eyes and ears” in America. Importantly, she developed an unshakable belief this was her time.
Five rounds with everything on the line, Artis needed a top-20 finish to earn full-playing status on the LPGA Tour. She opened with a three-under 69 to sit one off the lead. She followed with rounds of 72-69-71 to be on the verge of a card.
The final round was the most important of her career. Paired with England’sISPS HANDA Women’s Australian OpenISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open Artis put on a ball-striking clinic to shoot one-under 71. She had shot par or better in every round to finish fourth at eight-under par. The relief was huge.
“I walked off after playing five rounds of golf and I was so mentally fatigued. But it was the best feeling in the world to have got the job done and to really not put myself under too much stress,” she said.
“I hardly missed a shot all week. I didn’t have a three-putt in five rounds and didn’t have a double[-bogey]. I just played really solid, smart golf all week.”
It was all the sweeter having husband, Geoff, by her side. They have been through the highs and lows together. People told them their marriage would suffer by having him on the bag. But they’ve done it their way. Little wonder Rebecca describes him as “my greatest supporter”.
After what she’s been through, Artis doesn’t want to set any limitations on what can be achieved in the coming season:
“I’m not a rookie. Even though I’m technically a rookie on the
LPGA this year, I certainly don’t feel like a rookie.”
“I’ve won twice in Europe, I’ve played International Crown, and so I’ve had loads of experience. I’m just going to go out there and play with the belief that I’m good enough to be out there and see what I can do.”