Not all superheroes wear capes. Some are three-year-old girls running around the house trying to find a baby to save the world (her words, not mine). That’s my daughter, Gemelia. And she’s my hero.
When I first started this journey, all I thought about was competing and eventually earning my LPGA Tour card.
G changed all of that by showing me it was possible to hold onto my dreams while putting motherhood first. Not only has she made me a better person, but I’d even go as far as saying she’s made me a better golfer.
Through all of the ups, downs, good times, and bad times, I’ve never felt freer than I do with G in my life. I’ve never felt more accomplished as I do with my little superhero sidekick.
The best-kept secret
I’ve seen the side-eyed looks and heard all of the negative comments. “When are you going to quit?” “You shouldn’t have a kid and play at the same time.” I realize now I don’t have the same mindset as those people. And that’s completely okay. You have to do what makes you happy.
My husband, Ethan Virgili, and I simply live our lives a bit differently. He owns a family butcher shop called ERV Cattle Co. in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and we both support each other in any way possible.
And our daughter G is right in the middle of all of this, too. Sometimes, she is with me on the golf course, and sometimes she is checking on the cattle at 4 a.m. with my husband.
I may not live a conventional ‘pro athlete life’ where everything revolves around the sport, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Those things drive me as an athlete.
I love doing and achieving things that have never been done before.
A lot of players have come up to me over the last couple of years to ask me questions about being a mom on the Epson Tour. Sometimes they’ll lean in and ask, “So, how did you do it?”
There really is no secret. When I got pregnant, it never once crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to have a career. If anything, it made me want to work even harder. I hope our daughter can look back someday and see the hard work her parents put in to make their dreams a reality and realize she can do the same.
It’s the same mentality my late grandfather instilled in me when I was a little girl.
The family sport
My grandfather was my swing coach my entire life. Before his health started to decline, he spent a lot of time teaching me everything I now know about the game. My grandmother tried to help, but it was usually behind my grandfather’s back because he really didn’t want me taking instructions from anyone else. Even golf magazines were off limits. He just didn’t want me picking up any bad habits.
But he always believed in me. He taught me that I could do anything if I worked hard for it.
It wasn’t just my grandfather, either. My whole family believed in me. On top of that, both of my parents played, and my siblings competed in college.
Even G has started playing. Golf has always been a family thing.
A defining moment
It was really hard on me when my grandfather’s health declined to the point where he could no longer be my swing coach.
It happened in my first year competing on the LPGA Tour in 2016. I didn’t have another swing coach I could go to and my game really struggled. Other than my grandfather, I’d never really trusted anybody with my game.
Between my struggles on the course and seeing my grandfather’s health decline, things seemed to be crumbling. Up until that point, he had done everything for me.
I didn’t really know where to turn. I was lost.
It took me a couple of years to snap out of it. I told myself, “You’re going to have to figure this out. You have to trust somebody if you plan on doing this as your career for the rest of your life.”
I bounced around from different coaches before finally settling on Kevin Shields out of Pittsburgh. Through his guidance and me finally being able to open up and trust someone again, my game started to come back.
That ended up being one of those character-building moments that propelled me through life. It was monumental for my ongoing success, including earning my LPGA Tour card again this year.
Taking a village
Those are the moments that put everything into perspective.
Yes, I’m addicted to golf and the competition. But in the grand scheme of things, nothing is bigger than family. My husband, daughter, brother, sister, parents, and grandparents—nothing is more important.
But I also don’t have to give up my dreams and goals to make that statement true. I’m playing on the LPGA Tour while my husband is back home running his business and a farm. My parents and in-laws have been tremendous in watching G, helping with travel plans, working with the cows, and lending a hand at the butcher shop.
It really does take a village.
As for G, I can’t wait to see all of the wonders she unlocks in this world. My husband is already thinking big. He told me, “I need to start working out with you again. I think G is going to be the next president and I want to be around to see it.”
Whatever makes her happiest, I’ll be cheering her on every step of the way.