This is a “weird year,” according to Madison Odiorne.
Certainly she has always aspired to be a professional golfer. For years she honed her skill, entered big-name tournaments, won state championships at Bend’s Summit High and continued her golf career at Washington State University.
Now, Odiorne is only a few weeks away from entering her final year at WSU. The real world looms, and the 2015 Summit graduate is facing a life-altering decision.
She can continue playing, if she so desires. But Odiorne says she understands the reality may be that a professional career is just not in the cards.
So while Odiorne continues to plug away on the course, she is preparing for what many would call “a real job” by serving as an intern at a Bend dermatology clinic. Simultaneously, she is paving paths to two separate careers, and soon she will have to make a choice. But whichever route she takes, she will be content.
“It’s a weird year,” says Odiorne, 21. “If I had a year that I was just doing great and, ‘Why not give (a pro career) a shot,’ then I wouldn’t want this opportunity to be passed up. But I’m also OK with the reality of knowing that the last three years I’ve been, honestly, an average player in the Pac-12.
“It really depends on this last year and how it goes and doing some soul-searching with that, because that requires a lot of time and money and resources. As of right now, I want to enjoy my senior year and see where it goes.”
For the past few years, Odiorne has been prepping herself for reality. Last summer, she recalls, she stayed in Pullman to take a chemistry class, taking her away from the golf course for two months while she was in school.
A kinesiology major with a 3.6 GPA, Odiorne now has two career paths to consider: pro golfer, or nursing school.
“It’s just one of those things that you have to look at it in reality,” Odiorne says. “If it’s something I really wanted to do (going pro), I think I could do it. But I do think there’s been a lot of golf played and I would really love to do something with my major. It’s going to be a year of exploration with these upcoming (summer) tournaments.”
Odiorne entered WSU with a decorated resume. For example, she still stands as the lone Oregon high school golfer, boy or girl, to win four individual state championships.
But jumping from Class 5A high school golf to the Pac-12 is a challenge for any player.
“It’s a huge difference,” Odiorne says. “It’s hard to even compare, I would say. High school golf was a good warm-up to competition. But competing in tournaments at the Pac-12 level is just so different. Usually we play 36 holes the first day and 18 the second day. High school golf is just one round of 18 and state is two rounds.” The college game, she says, is “mentally and physically challenging and much more of a time commitment.”
Odiorne concedes that she had to humble herself a bit as she readied to compete in the Pac-12. Not long into her freshman year, she came to a realization.
“You hear about the girls you’re going to eventually be paired up with at tournaments,” she says. “‘Oh, wow, the girl in the group behind me is No. 1 in the world.’ I came into college not knowing what my world ranking was, let alone I even HAD a world ranking. You come to learn that Bend, Oregon, is pretty small compared with the people you meet out there.”
She had a 77.05 scoring average as a freshman, 75.41 as a sophomore and 75.54 this past season, which was fourth on the six-person Cougars squad. She has twice competed at the Pac-12 championships, where her best finish was a tie for 20th as a junior.
This summer, her last as a collegiate golfer, Odiorne has already competed in several big-time tournaments. At June’s OGA Oregon Amateur Championship at Bend Golf Club, she posted the fifth-lowest round during stroke play before being eliminated in the semifinals of match play. Shortly after, at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Qualifier in Woodburn, she carded an even-par 72 but finished one stroke back of the sixth and final qualifying spot.
Last week was the PNGA Women’s Amateur Championship in Pullman, but a kidney infection knocked Odiorne out of the field. (“It wasn’t a huge thing, just in and out,” says Odiorne, noting that she was in the hospital for just six hours just before the tournament began.)
She has mapped out a summer of tournaments that should vault her into her senior season at WSU. More now than ever, she is finding the ideal balance between golf and simply living her life. She has heard the horror stories of athletes who stop playing because of the excessive demand and time commitment. Odiorne is avoiding that at all costs.
“You see some programs that just want you to be really committed to golf and that just burns people out,” Odiorne says, adding that her coach Kelli Kamimura and the WSU program do not fall in that category by any means. “I’ve never had a time when I don’t want to play anymore. … We play and practice in a way that it brings joy instead of having to feel like you HAVE to practice.”
While Odiorne continues to work toward a long-lasting dream of going pro, she is still preparing for what could be reality: life after golf.
She will be ready to make a decision when the time comes. And she will be happy with either.
“I’ve kind of had a battle with that in my own head,” Odiorne says. “I just think there’s a lot of excitement but it’s also trying to figure out how to balance things in the summer. … I’m interning right now in the afternoons, which is difficult because afternoons are the better times to play golf.
“You hear about a lot of people that major in so-called ‘easier majors’ just so they can get through college and go pro. I just think, ‘You’re getting four years paid for. You might as well use all of it to your advantage, so why take it easy?’”