Love of game pulls ex-Hempfield state champion Katie Miller back to golf course
Former Hempfield golf standout Katie Miller is feeling good nowadays, but beware if you get invited to play a round with the former All-ACC golfer at North Carolina. If she digs into your bag to try out a club, and it feels good, it might be leaving with her.
“Two years ago before the state amateur championship, I took out my cousin Andrew’s putter, it felt good and I said, ‘I’m going to take this,’ ” Miller said. “Every time I take a club from one of them, I end up having a good week.”
Miller, 33, will drop her bag of Callaway’s, Andrew’s putter, and her uncle’s 3-wood at St. Louis’ Norwood Hills Country Club this weekend and compete in the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur that runs through Thursday.
Miller, a former three-time PIAA champion, punched her ticket to Norwood Hills last month by winning a qualifier at Nemacolin Woodlands.
Her journey to St. Louis marks the next leg of an already brilliant career but with a new twist, as a mid-amateur.
Mid-amateur golfers can be no younger than 25 years old and have no intention of turning pro. It’s the passion for the sport that drives a mid-am golfer, and that’s exactly what Miller had left in the tank having taken a few years off as a pro playing on the LPGA Futures Tour.
“What got me out of playing (professionally) is it’s pretty difficult out there for the women,” said Miller, who has earned a top-10 mid-am ranking from GobalGolfPost.com. “If you’re not one of the top 30 in the world, you’re not making a living.”
The golf bug bit Miller while she was working in television for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. The rush of connecting on the perfect drive and the urge to compete again became too much to ignore. One day after work, she rushed home, flipped on her computer and started the lengthy process of applying for amateur status.
“The application is way more detailed that I imagined,” Miller said. “It was purgatory until they tell you you’re an amateur again. Then you can go and compete. I was fortunate to get that back.”
Working a career in broadcast journalism, she turned to running races and half marathons as a way to open up and refresh her batteries. It was almost as if each race was a cleansing process. Miller admits distance running was never her thing but she found that after a few runs it was almost therapeutic. A lot of the miles running were spent thinking about how she can improve her golf game.
“There’s definitely a peace of mind through running,” Miller said. “I think that it has helped me on the golf course.”
One of the most critical areas Miller had to work out in her game had nothing to do with swinging a club. It was patience. The battle every competitive golfer goes through. To lay-up or drive the green.
“It still goes back that I found more patience,” Miller said. “When I’m truly in the moment and it’s crazy, it goes back to that patience and hitting that shot as best I can and making a good plan.”
Miller’s plan is on track. Since gaining her mid-am status in 2013, she has reached the quarterfinals in the 2015 and 2016 Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am.
“I don’t know if its necessarily a comeback,” Miller said. “The talent level, even at this level, is incredibly strong. At this point you’re playing because you love the game, most everyone here has a career and a life outside of golf.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.