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God, Golf, and Going the Extra Mile: An Interview with Amy Anderson

March 27–31, 2017   |   Vol. 130, Programs 21–25
Previously aired:   March 14–18, 2016   |   Vol. 126, Programs 46–50

Amy Anderson had a golf club in her hand since she was 2 years old. And now in 2017, this homeschool graduate just finished her third year as a professional golfer. How did she do it? Find out on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat with your host, Mike Smith.

“What I’ve discovered is that athletics is not so much about the skills that you acquire, but it’s really about the person that you become.”—Amy Anderson

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Amy Anderson has had a golf club in her hand ever since she was 2 years old. And now in 2017, this homeschool graduate just finished her third year as a professional golfer. How did she do it? Find out on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat with your host, Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: My guest this week is Amy Anderson. She’s a professional golfer who was homeschooled through high school. Amy, welcome to our program!

Amy Anderson: Thank you so much, Mike. I’m glad to be here.

Mike: Amy, you love to golf enough to make it a career. What is it about golf that you really enjoy so much?

Always a challenge [0:36]

Amy: Well, when I first started, I absolutely loved the fact that I could just go out, practice on my own, and not have to wait for teammates or, you know, someone else’s schedule. And if I was motivated to get better, I could just go out there and get it done.

The other thing I love about golf is the challenge. And even if you have your career round that day, you can always look back on some shot that you could have done better. So it’s almost like an unsolvable puzzle—which can be discouraging, but it’s also really exciting. 

Mike: How old were you when you first started?

Amy: I started golfing when I was basically 2 or 3. Like, as soon as I could walk, my dad had a club in my hand. But I really started practicing when I was 9 years old.

Mike: So is that when you decided you wanted to be a professional golfer?

Amy: When I was 10 years old, for some reason I was watching the LPGA on TV. And I was watching—my hero at the time was Karrie Webb, who was the number one player in the world. And I saw her and I was like, “That is what I want to do when I grow up.” So I was 10 when I knew. 

Mike: Now you have—is it an older brother or a younger brother that’s a professional golfer?

Amy: Well, I just have one older brother. He’s 19 months older, and he’s actually a professional accountant. So not a professional golfer, but he caddied for me my entire first year on tour. 

Mike: Yeah, but he was a good player, wasn’t he?

Amy: He was, yes. He played for four years in college and was the number one player on the team, won a bunch of college events. 

Mike: But didn’t turn pro?

Amy: No, he didn’t.

Mike: But he probably could.

Amy: Yeah, he could have. It was one of those things where he knew it was going to be a long, tough struggle, and he just did not have the passion for golf. And he was an exceptional student—4.0 [GPA in] accounting, he’s got his masters, CPA—like, he’s brilliant. So he wanted to go more the business side. That was really where his passion was. 

The flexibility of homeschooling [2:22]

Mike: Amy, when you were a teenager, how did you balance your homeschooling with your golf competition and other events?

Amy: You know, one of the big things that homeschooling provided for me was flexibility to practice when I needed to and then study when I could. And so one of the things that my mom allowed me to do was really study on the rainy days, and when it wasn’t nice outside, and on the weekends if necessary, and so that I could go practice when the weather was good. Because growing up in North Dakota, we could only practice outside 7 months a year. So we had to take full advantage of that. And that was a really cool experience—just being able to learn time management.

And we didn’t always do it the normal way, but we did what worked best. Also, on golf trips—one time we played in Williamsburg, Virginia, and so we stayed a couple days after the golf tournament, and just toured all the historic buildings [and] shops, and it was a really cool way to bring our homeschooling and learning into a golf trip. 

Mike: Now, when you graduated from high school, you had offers from top colleges and universities for scholarships. But you decided to go to North Dakota State University. Why?

Amy: Well, a big part of it was the fact that I graduated from high school at 16. And homeschooling really allowed me to do that because I have a brother who’s 19 months older than me. And when mom started teaching him back in kindergarten, and teaching him how to read, I just listened in and learned how to read at a young age. And so the next year, my mom was like, “Well there’s no point in teaching Amy this over, since she already knows it.” So she just put my brother and [me] in the same grade. And I was able to graduate early at 16. 

And at that point, I didn’t want to move a thousand miles away just for a little extra fun time. So I decided to stay close to home, close to my coach. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

A day in the life of a pro golfer [4:10]

Mike: Well Amy, tell us about your normal routine. What does a day in the life of a professional golfer look like for Amy Anderson?

Amy: The biggest thing is that there is no normal. You know, I’m on an airplane about 40 days a year. I’m away from home 25 weeks a year. And then those off weeks, I split my time between North Dakota and Florida. So there’s a lot of travel involved. But, like, during competition days, a lot of times I’ll wake up at 5:30 in the morning, get ready, go to the course, eat breakfast, and then I’ll start warming up at 7:00 for an 8 o’ clock tee time. And then from 8:00 to 1:00—like our rounds take 5 hours. So I’ll be done at 1, when I eat lunch, go practice for about an hour on whatever needed work that day. And then, I’ll go and do some stretching or some physical therapy work, or a light workout—kind of just depending [on] how I feel. And then my day, like, my work day is done by about 4:00 or 5:00. 

Mike: You know what, this sounds a lot like work!

Amy: Yeah, isn’t that crazy? It’s not supposed to be like that, right?

Mike: Well what’s the best part of your life as a professional golfer?

Amy: Hands down, it is the people I meet. So I have friends from a ton of different countries—there’s over 30 countries represented on the LPGA Tour. And I have friends from all walks of life, careers, ages. Because golf is such a funny sport. It doesn’t matter, like, how much money you have, it doesn’t matter how famous you are—it shows that everyone is human. It is such a humbling sport. And so people that I would never meet, or even talk with if I passed them in the mall, have become incredible friends. And even, like, my teammates in college are still my best friends today. If you look at—every business person knows the biggest deals are made on the golf course, right? There’s no activity like golf for building relationships. And even when I’m up there, you know, making a living through competing, that part of the game really doesn’t change. 

Mike: Amy, I got to ask you: What’s your lowest score, and what’s your highest score since you’ve been on tour?

Amy: Oh, since I’ve been on tour, I’ve shot 66 a couple times. And I don’t know what my highest round is. I try to forget it, and I’ve clearly done a good job. 

Mike: Well, you probably want to block that out. You just don’t want to talk about that, right?

Amy: Right. Exactly.

Mike: Amy, I got to tell you: about 7 or 8 years ago, I shot a 66 in a tournament at my club here. And that’s the lowest—yeah, that’s the lowest score I’ve ever had. 

Amy: Really? That’s fantastic!

Mike: It was almost like a divine intervention. Balls were bouncing off trees on the green, shanks were going straight. It was amazing. 

Amy: A little “Happy Gilmore”?

Mike: Oh yeah, it was “Happy Gilmore.” That’s what it was.

Amy: That’s hilarious.

Behind the celebrity curtain [6:48]

Mike: As an athlete, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it, Amy?

Amy: Mike, to be honest, as far as athletic careers go, I’ve had a pretty uneventful and smooth ride so far. You know, I won an international championship in high school, got a scholarship to a D1 college, and then when I graduated, I immediately qualified for the LPGA tour. I’ve never even broken a bone that’s kept me out of competition. So as far as that goes, I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

But one of the challenges that I think everyone has faced who has poured themselves, you know, into a sport, or a career, or even a family, is the tendency to get caught up in—that you are what you do, and believe that. And it’s really a scary place when your purpose and identity are wrapped up in your own achievements. Because that doesn’t last. This world, and especially athletics, are temporary. And so, for me, I am so thankful that I have eternal life through Christ Jesus and that I’m a child of God. Because that lasts forever, and whether I’m holding a golf club or not, that is who I am. 

Mike: Well that’s encouraging, Amy. Let me ask you: what’s the best advice you ever received?

Amy: You know, my parents, growing up, ingrained into me that you do what is right, no matter what anyone else is doing. And it’s so easy to go with the flow and make compromises along the way.

And in athletics, especially, there’s a mindset that emphasizes results above anything else. And it doesn’t matter how you get there. And in the long run, that creates so many problems, and it makes habits that are a lot harder to change down the road. And honestly, the more successful you are, the more opportunities there are to get distracted. So I start every single day in the Word of God, reading my Bible and then seeking God’s advice and His wisdom in my life. And with a solid foundation, it’s a lot easier to recognize the distractions and pursue my goals the right way.

Mike: That’s pretty encouraging, Amy, I’m telling you.

Amy: Thank you. Just sharing my experience.

Mike: Well, are there other Christians on the tour?

Amy: You know, there are. In the past, I have been incredibly lukewarm at times, and there’s a lot of Christians on tour that are at that place right now. And so, you know, it’s one of those things where I really feel like God has me there for a purpose. And it’s really exciting to be able to have an incredible opportunity to share with people from different countries all over [that] my hope is in Jesus Christ. And especially with athletics, it is an incredibly self-centered career. And the more you’re involved in that, the more depressing that gets, and there’s a lot of girls who are looking for answers outside of themselves. And it’s a really opportunity to be there. 

Mike: Do you have a regular Bible study on tour?

Amy: We do. And there’s a lady that comes out—and she’s done this for over 30 years—she comes out and holds a Bible study with us on Wednesday nights. And that has been, like, a lifesaver for me, because obviously we play on Sundays, so I can’t go to church every week. And so, having that support and getting back in the Word every single week is really what keeps me going. I honestly don’t know if I could do it without that.

Going the extra mile [10:11]

Mike: Amy, being a professional athlete is something many kids dream about, but very few attain. What do you think were the biggest reasons for your success as an athlete?

Amy: Well, first off, I am so blessed to be able to do this as a career. I can’t even tell you how many people have been behind me, and opportunities that have just opened up. So I’m really grateful to everyone who has been behind me throughout this whole process—I couldn’t do it without them. 

But, you know, the other side of it is what Thomas Edison said. And he said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it wears overalls and it looks like work.” And there’s no question, I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last 15 or so years. And I didn’t get a single paycheck until three years ago. And so there’s a lot of commitment and work that goes on long before the professional golf career shows up.

Mike: Do you have any advice for homeschoolers who want to pursue an athletic career?

Amy: Yeah. You know, here’s what I would say: if you love a sport, get involved. Show up to practice, go the extra mile. Practice for your practice. You will not regret giving it your all. Because, honestly, what I’ve discovered is that athletics is not so much about the skills that you acquire, but it’s really about the person that you become. The commitment and determination and perseverance that you learn is something that will transfer to every single area of your life. 

But also, if you don’t have a passion for sports, that’s okay too. You know, if you don’t love a sport at 8 years old, you’re not going to love it at 28 just because you’re getting paid for it. You know, just be honest with yourself, and if it’s something that you’re interested in, jump in. 

On a little more advanced level, for those who’ve been involved in sports and have serious potential showing. Usually, playing in college is a really good next step. It gives you time to mature physically, gain a ton of experience, and then get an education. I majored in accounting and passed my CPA exam this last year, which has given me a ton of peace of mind, when I’ve been pursuing athletics. Because athletics is like the least job security of any career in the world. And so having a backup plan is, in my mind, absolutely essential.

Mike: Well Amy, thanks so much for joining us this week and sharing your unique story with our listeners. We wish you the best of luck in the future—actually not luck, but divine intervention would be more appropriate. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Amy AndersonPhoto of Amy Anderson

Amy was born in Oxbow, North Dakota, to Mark and Twyla Anderson. Amy and her older brother Nathan were homeschooled through high school. Amy won numerous local, state, and regional golf competitions before attending NDSU herself at the age of 17.

At NDSU, Amy led the women’s golf program in scoring each of her four years. She won an NCAA-record 20 collegiate events and graduated with a GPA of 3.97 and a degree in accounting.

After completing her senior season at NDSU, Amy turned professional and won Stage II of LPGA Qualifying school. She gained her LPGA Tour card in June 2013 to be part of the rookie class in 2014. Her best finish of the year came at the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii where she finished tied for 7th. Amy is now entering her third year on the LPGA Tour.

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