Small Town, Big Swing: Emma Talley reaches for personal successBy Caroline Gazzara | 04/13/2015 5:07pm
From the moment Emma Talley held her first golf club, she know she had found her sport. UA Athletics
Growing up, Emma Talley did it all. If there was any sport that she could play, she made sure to play it. It didn’t matter what the rules were, Talley was going to compete.
Her story started one day when she was 9 years old. Her father was going to teach her brother how to play golf. Like any younger sister, Talley wanted to tag along.
From the moment Talley held her first club, she said a fire ignited inside of her. She had found her sport, and she was good at it.
“She was better than both of us from the very beginning, so that’s how it all started,” said Dan Talley, her father. “We knew we weren’t really good but she was better than us.”
Shortly after her first experience on the greens, Talley was shooting low scores. Three months later, she had the lowest women’s score in all of Princeton, Kentucky, her hometown. She was still 9 years old.
Now, with a little over a month until her 21st birthday, Talley has made a name for herself. Hailing from a small town with little more than 6,000 people, Talley is known across the globe for her talent and her Southern accent. She’s also the leading player for the women’s golf team. She has an average of 73.1.
Talley said she fell in love with the game quickly after she swung her first club. She received lessons at the age of 10. Talley had to travel over an hour from home to Paducah, Kentucky, to practice since she was the only woman golfer in her high school.
Her youth coach Todd Trimble said he was amazed by how mature she was at such a young age.
“I’m lucky,” he said. “At an early age, Emma not only had a great personality but she had a great work ethic to go with it. And she could turn them on and off. She could be a fun-loving kid and goofing around and in two seconds literally flip a switch and go work the grind for two hours straight. You just don’t see that in a lot of people.”
Trimble continued to coach Talley throughout her adolescent and collegiate career. He’s been her caddy for many tournaments, the guy who edits her film and the person who keeps encouraging her.
Of all the things Trimble taught her over the years, there’s one lesson that remains with Talley to this day, she said.
“He was always a big believer in focus on the process, not in the now,” she said. “Two things he told me: stay in the process and the second thing he taught me was that golf’s not everything. He was a great mentor when I was younger.”
Talley said those two rules have stuck with her all these years, keeping her focused on the now instead of what the future may hold. She said it was this motto that kept her focused while she competed in the major Ladies Professional Golf Association tournaments.
Talley, a junior majoring in communication studies, joined the Crimson Tide in the fall of 2012. She was the No. 1 recruit in 2012 by Golfweek. Despite her high ranking, the prestige didn’t phase her. Talley said she was humbled by the experience to play on a collegiate level and was just excited to be a part of something big.
Talley’s freshman season came right after Alabama won the NCAA championship. The then-freshman debuted in the first tournament in the fall season as the top individual player at the Cougar Classic. As the only true freshman of the team, Talley worked to make a name for herself.
“She really stepped right in as a freshman to help make us a good team,” Coach Mic Potter said.
During the summer before her sophomore year, Talley qualified for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur after winning at the Country Club of Charleston. Talley then went on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur tournament, the first Alabama women’s golfer to do so.
“It was such a blessing when I look back at it,” she said. “Because of the U.S. Amateur I was allowed to play in all the majors for the LPGA.”
Because she won the U.S. Women’s Amateurs, Talley was able to play in the U.S. Open, the British Open, the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA Championship. She brought along her father and Trimble as motivation to compete.
Talley also represented the United States team in the Curtis Cup, a prestigious tournament held in St. Louis. She’s the second Alabama player to represent the U.S. team.
Her success in her personal career did affect her collegiate career, however. Looking back, Talley said it took her a while to bounce back and there was a lot of pressure. She was able to rally towards the end of the season, becoming the second-highest scorer and averaging 73.14 on the season.
Talley said Potter had a major impact on her towards the end of her sophomore season. Plagued by sickness, Talley said she wanted to throw in the towel but instead Potter told her exactly what she needed to get it together.
“He is so calm and he is so encouraging but I do remember this one statement, and it’ll stay with me forever," she said. "I was sick one time at a tournament and I didn’t play very well and I kept giving that excuse and he said, ‘You know, Emma, you’re good enough to go pro and you’re going to be out there one day but they’re not going to care if you are sick or not.’ And I think that put [it] in reality even though it was a tough statement to hear – it was so true. To have a coach that can sit down and tell you the honest truth about something to make you better is the kind of coach you want. And he definitely did that for me.”
In Potter’s words, Talley overcame adversity.
It may have been a tough season for Talley, balancing both a personal career and a collegiate one, but she said the opportunities she was given helped mold her into the leader Potter sees today.
As a junior, Talley has been leading the team all season long despite a slump in results. She said she’s motivated for success and even more eager to keep pursuing her dreams.
Outside of the world of golf, Talley said she is enjoying her life and friendships. She came to The University of Alabama to contribute to the success of the school, but in her opinion she’s getting the better end of the deal.
“God’s blessed me with so much in my life," she said. "I’m so blessed to have all these opportunities, to meet the people that I’ve met. They’re going to be [my] friends for a lifetime. And also just knowing that there are so many good players out there, [like] my teammates – we’re all super competitive with each other. There’s all kinds of great players out there. That’s what keeps you going. In golf, you can always get better – there’s never a stopping point in golf. In golf you don’t win a lot so there’s always a chance to get better.”