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  • Lauren Wood

Our First Podcast Series' Featured Golfer: Marilyn Lovander

Marilyn Lovander is a former LPGA professional and the first guest on FairWay for Girls’ podcast series. Although she dedicated her life to the game of golf, it wasn’t the first sport she played.

“My first love in sports was actually softball,” Lovander said. “I played on a team with a gal who was also a golfer, and she invited me out to play one day and that’s kind of how I got hooked.”

Lovander was already 19 years old when she first started playing golf, but she found that her previous experience in softball made her a natural. Her age made learning the sport difficult, but after a few years and endless hours of hard work, Lovander was playing golf competitively.

“[I started playing] a lot of amateur tournaments up in the state of Minnesota,” Lovander said. “Then I played in the U.S. Public Links quite a few times and that kind of lit the fire under me that I would really like to do this for a living.”

With that realization, Lovander fully devoted her time and her life to becoming a professional golfer.

“I decided to sell everything I owned and moved out to Arizona [where I] practiced my golf until I got good enough to play on the tour,” Lovander said. “It was a lot, but it was a labor of love. When you find something you love to do, it doesn’t really feel like a job.”

Eventually, Lovander worked her way up to the Epson Tour, a developmental tour for the LPGA. From there, she went through qualifying school, where she played tournaments against about 250 other aspiring golfers with handicaps under 1. Approximately 15 golfers from these tournaments earned a place on the LPGA Tour, including Lovander.

“The [LPGA tournaments] were all wonderful,” Lovander said. “I still have many, many friends from around the country that I got to know just from playing in tournaments…[it was] just incredible to be a part of.”

On the Tour, Lovander played the same courses with the same people each year, which began to develop into a routine. On Mondays, she traveled to the next tournament, and on Tuesdays, she played a practice round at the course. Thursday through Sunday were the days of the actual event, and then the Monday after she would start all over again.

“Everybody was open to helping you with any questions, but I also had a lot of friends that played on tour and that was helpful too,” Lovander said. “There were a few gals that I would travel with…and [I] always had somebody to go out to dinner with, so [I] didn’t feel so terribly lonely.”

Professional golf requires a lot from its participants. Tour golfers spend years of their lives preparing, practicing, and performing in tournaments.

“It’s not only physically demanding, but it's emotionally demanding as well, mentally demanding,” Lovander said. “I’ve played with a lot of other professional athletes that are baseball players, football players, hockey players, [and they all] say it’s the toughest thing they’ve ever done.”

On top of that stress, professional golf meant that there were always spectators and cameras watching, adding pressure to the already intense game. For Lovander, the best way to handle the nerves was to have a routine on every shot. Focusing on something she had practiced thousands of times took her mind off the stakes at hand.

“You’d be surprised at how important [a routine] is, it [makes] you forget about everything else and you don’t worry so much about what’s around you,” Lovander said. “But if you ever get to that first tee of the day and you don’t have those butterflies in your stomach, you know it’s time to quit.”

Despite these challenges, Lovander maintained her Tour status for years, earning herself lifetime membership.

“I think my strength in golf is the fact that I just couldn’t give up,” Lovander said. “Every time it got difficult, I just dug in harder and harder all the time. It didn’t always work out, but I never once gave up on myself when I was out there playing. It really builds character to come up against something tough and just put your head down and keep going.”

At age 52, Lovander finally retired from the LPGA after a lifetime of achievement. She continues to play recreationally and coach golf, where she projects her positive mindset onto her students.

“[I say that] when you find what your passion is, just follow it,” Lovander said. “Don’t listen to all these people that tell you you’re wrong and you need to do something else because it just makes your life so much better when you get to follow your passion.”

After her retirement, Lovander played on the LPGA Legends Tour because she missed the competitive aspect of golf and the friends she had made. Although she no longer plays in that senior tour, she will always look back fondly on her memories from a lifetime of professional golf.

“When you’re out there and playing all the time, you just don’t realize how special what you’re doing is,” Lovander said. “Then when you get done with it and you look back, you go ‘wow, that was pretty cool’. I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.”

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