UI Diploma in 2012; U.S. Open in 2013
A year ago, Chelsea Harris was closing out her University of Iowa women's golf career and finishing up a degree in business, and now she's preparing for the U.S. Women's Open Championship.
To earn a spot, Harris advanced through the Wheaton, Ill., qualifier, in a one-hole playoff on May 14. She finished with a 36-hole total of 145 (+1) at Cantigny Golf Club to finish tied for second place, where she went on to defeat Mexico's Ana Menendez in a first-hole playoff.
"I am kind of in shock," says Harris, who played for the Hawkeyes from 2008-12. "A year ago I was graduating, and now I am getting ready to play in the U.S. Open. I didn't think it would happen this fast."
After struggling in her first professional season on the Cactus Tour in Arizona, Harris says she felt like her old self early in the first round of the qualifier. She finished the first 18 holes with a one-over par 73, leaving her two shots off the lead.
"I haven't played good golf since July or August of last summer," says Harris. "But, I really felt like myself again after the second or third hole of the first round, and I knew I was going to play well. I had a really good mentality, and I stuck with it and focused on going lower instead of staying where I was at."
With two holes remaining in the tournament, Harris felt she needed two birdies to solidify her chances of advancing. After missing a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, she thought her opportunity had slipped away. She went all in on her final hole and produced a birdie to post a one-over par 143.
Then came the wait.
"I had no idea (if it was enough)," says Harris. "I walked into the pro shop and looked at the scoreboard and there were still two or three groups behind me. I was waiting and waiting. Nobody came in with lower scores, so Ana Menendez and I went into a playoff for that final spot."
In one of the most pressure-packed situations of her career, Harris delivered when it mattered most.
"I was surprisingly calm," says Harris. "I thought I was going to be really nervous, but I was excited and confident. I have been dreaming of playing in the U.S. Open since I was 8-years-old. When I had the opportunity, I felt like I was prepared and deserved to be there.
"I wanted to put my ball in play on the first hole, I did that and I ended up winning."
Harris says the support she has received the days since have been overwhelming.
"My family members are beside themselves," says Harris. "My parents and grandparents were crying. It is exciting for everyone because it is a team effort and I couldn't have done it without them."
The surreal moment came when Harris was filing out the registration form for the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
"When I went to register, I was like, 'this is crazy,'" says Harris. "It said 'Do you need a courtesy car? Do you need the LPGA to pick you up from the airport?'
"I hoped this would happen, but I wasn't mentally prepared for when it did."
The 2013 U.S. Women's Open Championship will be held in Southampton, N.Y., at the Sebonack Golf Club on June 27-30.
Contact: James Allen, Athletic Communications, 319-335-9411