Center Grove’s Shepherd among the youngest to compete in upcoming U.S. Open
Erica Shepherd’s focus and motivation aren’t those of your typical teenager. And that’s why her results on the golf course are anything but typical.
“Her drive and her desire and vision of a long term goal is different than other players I’ve been around,” Brent Nicoson, Shepherd’s coach and also the coach at UIndy, said.
The 15-year-old lefty qualified to compete with the nation’s best – pros and amateurs alike – in the upcoming women’s U.S. Open after winning last month’s qualifier near Chicago.
“I’ve always wanted to win the U.S. Open, so playing at it at 15, that’ll be great experience,” Shepherd said. “It’ll really get me ready for when I’m on the tour, already having that experience.”
Shepherd is often stepping on the course at sunrise between 6:30 and 7:30 am, taking just short breaks to grab a smoothie for lunch and a quick dinner and continues practicing until dark.
“At some point you have to back her off a little bit,” Coach Nicoson said. “She'd be out here 12 hours a day if we would let her."
"When I'm practicing I can picture myself, ‘make this putt to win the U.S. Open’ or something like that,” Shepherd said. “Just putting it in tournament situations and knowing it will help me get better."
For Erica, making memories on the golf course started long before she even started swinging a club.
“I live on a golf course and my dad is a big golfer. He'd strap a car seat on the golf cart and take me with him when he'd play," Shepherd recalled.
That golf course where she was the caddie in the car seat continues to be her home course to this day; the 18th hole at Dye’s Walk in Greenwood is basically her backyard.
"Dye's Walk has been really supportive,” Shepherd said. “I can just drive out all day and just do my thing and everyone's really supportive."
Although the Center Grove sophomore isn’t able to compete with her high school golf team due to her demanding tournament schedule, she trades the course for the court in the winter months, playing basketball for the Trojans.
“I think it’s great to give her a mental break from this rigorous practice routine she does,” Nicoson said. “I think team sports are great, I might not be in the norm on that but as a coach and coaching college players I love having multisport athletes."
For now though, she’s focused on a full summer on the links. After the U.S. Open in California, Erica will head to New Jersey for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
"She's got the world ahead of her, she's got some good golf coming up,” Nicoson said.
The only thing as high as Erica’s potential are the goals she has set for herself.
“I want to be on the LPGA and I want to win every single major on the LPGA tour and I want to play on the Solheim Cup team," Shepherd said.
But she’s also taking a little time to enjoy that hard-earned success along the way.
"It's going to go by quick so I'm just going to try to enjoy every single minute of it,” Shepherd said.