Women's Mid-Am: Harrison to make USGA debut on home track
Kallie Harrison (Photo courtesy of player)
Kallie Harrison (Photo courtesy of player)

It’s not uncommon for a player to find inspiration in the U.S. Golf Association competition calendar on any given year. Sometimes that means dreaming about teeing it up at Pebble Beach, as many amateur men did in the lead-up to this year’s U.S. Amateur. Other times, it means sharpening your game to compete in your hometown, or even at your home course.

The latter is true for Kallie Harrison, a 32-year-old who is one-for-one in USGA qualifying. Harrison’s upcoming U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur start at Norwood Hills Country Club, where she is a member, will be her USGA debut and her first real foray back into tournament golf.

Harrison is a former Division I golfer who mastered the rare art of juggling student-athlete life with a pre-med program. Ball State head coach Katherine Mowat hasn’t seen anything like it – before or since Harrison passed through her program 10 years ago. She distinctly remembers writing 17 letters of recommendation for Harrison to help her find her way into medical school. While Mowat was perfecting the art of recommending, Harrison was single-mindedly preparing for the MCAT. But Harrison’s commitment to her team never failed.

“She was that player who would prove that we at Ball State had game and could play,” said Mowat, who has guided the Cardinals since 2004. “I think the best part of her game probably was her mental game and her fearless approach.”

Harrison, a Barrington, Ill., native who began her college career as a Division II player at Southern Illinois Edwardsville (a program that’s now defunct), graduated from Ball State in 2007. Teammates marked the occasion by gifting her a plastic set of child-size doctor toys.

Harrison enrolled at St. Louis University for medical school in August 2007. School, training and residencies followed in St. Louis through 2015. Harrison is now a practicing OBGYN at BJC Medical Group of Illinois. She joined Norwood Hills last spring.

There were small medical tournaments throughout her time at SLU (many organized by a dean who had a passion for the game), but competitive golf the way Harrison once knew it took a back seat to her career. Harrison met her husband Rob while in medical school. He picked up the game, became hooked and gradually brought Harrison back in, too.

Harrison’s competitive nature meant that her return to golf would be on her own terms – in other words, when she had the right amount of time to devote to it and could play at the level she wanted. It didn’t make much sense for Harrison to pay a green fee while on call, with the possibility of having to leave mid-round, so there were few rounds until she joined Norwood Hills in April 2018. Ultimately, a 2017 golf trip to Kohler, Wis., was the tipping point she needed.

“Just had a really good time and sort of at that point, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get back into this,’” Harrison said.

Related: U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur qualifying roundup
Related: U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur stroke-play pairings, tee times

At Norwood, Harrison plays at least three times a week, including in a ladies-only summer league on Tuesdays. She almost always is at the course on weekends. It’s a typical mid-amateur schedule – a continuation of the juggling act she perfected in college.

In the months leading up to the Women’s Mid-Amateur, there was no shortage of press about the tournament in Norwood circles. It’s what led Harrison to try qualifying.

“I kind of stumbled into it,” Harrison said of the 18-hole qualifier, but she certainly didn’t stumble through it. Harrison had a 77 at St. Louis Country Club last month to take one of four available spots in the championship.

Throughout all of this, something else Harrison has stumbled onto is the golf-centric nature of St. Louis, a city that wowed the greater golf community in August when record crowds turned up for the PGA Championship at Bellerive. Harrison met Ellen Port, a seven-time USGA champion (and four-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion) for the first time at the tournament’s media day.

Norwood, which hosted several LPGA St. Louis Invitationals in the 1950s and ‘60s, is included in that lore. Harrison’s scouting report focuses on the greens.

“It doesn’t matter what your ability level is, they can set up the course to be appropriate but still a great test of the golf game, from pretty much every aspect,” she said. “Probably the biggest thing people talk about is the greens. Depending on how they choose to utilize them, they can get pretty nasty. That’s probably the biggest defense the course has to offer.”

The Division I golfer in Harrison has been tucked away so long that she’s not even sure her husband grasps the level at which she once played. A new side of Harrison is about to come to the forefront in St. Louis.

“If he comes and experiences the (Women’s Mid-Am) atmosphere, I think that will help him understand,” Harrison said. “… I think he has seen some hints of it, when we have played together for fun in the past. I don’t think he has seen the whole spectrum of what I am.”

Mowat, however, has. A competitive nature never really goes away, especially for someone with Harrison’s determination. Mowat never forgot that.

“She’s one I’ve thought about a lot,” Mowat said of her former player. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she played really well. She’s just that kind of a player where she’ll find her swing and find her mental game and it will carry her through.”

ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur originated in 1987 to provide a national competitive arena for amateurs 25 and older. Besides the age restriction, the event is open to those with a USGA Handicap Index of 9.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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