Threat of COVID won't swing golf prodigy Darcy Habgood from her true course

Darcy Habgood in her Washington State University Cougars get-up
Darcy Habgood in her Washington State University Cougars get-up

In 2019 golfing wunderkind Darcy Habgood left our idyllic shores for the United States - on a full scholarship to Washington State University.

She admits she suffered a fair amount of culture shock in her first semester, with most Yanks not fully versed in Australian slang nor our laconic wit.

"I got a lot of people going 'What language are you speaking?'," she said.

But after a full semester navigating her new world the young woman from the NSW mid-north coast began to find her form.

In her second semester she played in five tournaments - including in Hawaii - and collected five Top 50 finishes, two of which were Top 10 placements.

In the WSU Cougar Classic in September last year she came the closest she'd been to winning a tournament.

"I was behind by three shots and then I had four three-putts in my last round. I think I was focusing on the outcome too much rather than what was in front of me," she said.

Still, she finished the tournament in tied fifth place with her colleague, and ended the year ranked second on her team.

At WSU, Darcy is supported by a coaching team which includes a mental coach, and she's been amazed by her own zen-like transformation.

"I am a completely different person on the golf course now than I was when I started," she said.

I've learned to accept a bad shot, and not let it affect the next one. I've learned how to switch off from golf when I leave the course, and I've been learning patience - something which I really didn't have much of before.

All invaluable tools for dealing with the slings and arrows that 2020 has flung forth. Still, it was a rude shock in March to be given an ultimatum to pack her bags.

"The semester was cancelled due to COVID and we were given four days to leave - it was either go home or stay here and face the unknown," she said.

Darcy chose to return to Nambucca to wait it out, but struggled with that decision for a while.

"I felt frustrated and stuck. It was hard to stay motivated to do my school work - at times there was so much work piling up that I wanted to give up," she said.

"It took me a while to appreciate the fact I was able to come home. But after I realised I was being ungrateful I took advantage of being able to work in the Pro Shop and earn more money, and learn from Dad who is my coach."

With enough money in the bank to buy herself a car, and an 'all-clear' for the upcoming semester, Darcy is packing her bags once more.

She flies out to LAX on Sunday.

It might seem like madness to be flying back to a country with such a loose grasp on this pandemic.

This month has seen the US tip scarily close to nearly a quarter of a million new COVID-19 infections per day. This year Washington State has recorded 3,195 COVID-related deaths from nearly 230,000 cases - a figure eight times more thanAustralia.

And Darcy is under no illusion about the risks she faces.

"I'm nervous about the flight - there aren't a lot of people on my plane, which is good, but I'm arriving in LA - one of the biggest airports in the world. And then I need to catch a bus for an hour," she said.

There is a very good chance that I could get COVID. But it's a risk I'm willing to take because it's where I need to be to get to where I want to go in life.

And her Dad, Paul Habgood, is supportive of her decision.

"Ultimately she'll have access to the best medical professionals and care over there," he said. "And we're excited for her get back on track."

Darcy said the university had taken a proactive approach to dealing with the virus and the team's doctors, trainers and supervisors have already received the COVID vaccination.

"I have to quarantine for five days when I arrive, and there is daily testing. We might even have to play with masks on," she said.

But right now her mind is on other things; making sure she doesn't repeat the same mistake of packing enough to clothe an entire army, and getting back to the business of taking the golfing world by storm.

This story Threat of COVID won't swing golf prodigy from her true course first appeared on Guardian News.