Emilia Migliaccio on the podium (photo submitted)
When the national anthem began playing, Emilia Migliaccio was certain she was going to cry. She made a conscience decision: There would be no tears. Too many people were watching for there to be tears.
“I just had chills through my body the whole time,” Migliaccio said of standing on the podium at the Pan-American Games as the gold medal winner in women’s golf. “I couldn’t stop smiling. It was just the coolest feeling to know that I won something for my country and they’re playing that national anthem because I won.”
Migliaccio, about to be a Wake Forest junior, became the first American, male or female, to win a gold medal in golf at either the Pan American Games or the Olympics since the event was reintroduced to the games in 2015. She logged four rounds under par at Lima (Peru) Golf Club and won by four. She hit it to 2 feet on the final hole for a closing, clinching birdie.
That’s another memory that will imprint permanently in her brain. It was a moment shared with her mother Ulrika, as golf course moments usually are. Ulrika, a former member of the Swedish national team and the University of Arizona women’s golf team (1991-95), is one of few mom caddies out there.
“She kept saying over and over again, how proud she was of me,” Migliaccio said. “We work so hard together.”
If Central Park were a golf course, Migliaccio says, then that was sort of the feel that Lima Golf Club had. It was right in the middle of the city.
Migliaccio had come right from the Canadian Women’s Amateur, where she finished T-24. She didn’t like how her wedges were performing in Canada, so she spent the short break in between tournaments practicing wedges every day for nearly an hour.
“That really was the reason why I played so well,” she said. “I’m good at getting my driver in position in the fairway.”
Migliaccio’s father Salvatore was born in Venezuela to Italian parents and until a few years ago, many family members still lived there. Still, Migliaccio had never been anywhere in Latin America until this trip to Peru. She fell in love instantly.
“Everyone is so kind and loud and welcoming,” she said.
To play the Pan-American Games, Migliaccio had to sacrifice a start in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. As a top-25 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (she is currently No. 8), she would have been exempt into the field. Surprisingly, Migliaccio has never played a Women’s Am or a Girls’ Junior. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2018. Even when Migliaccio took the phone call from the U.S. Olympic Committee, asking her to be on the team, the man on the other end of the line “seemed kind of bummed” before the conversation even started.
“I think he was expecting me to decline,” Migliaccio said.
When she learned the Pan Am Games are only played once every four years, she jumped at the chance. It was a tough decision, but representing her country had her sold. That, and the opportunity to be part of a team that also included Stanford commit Rose Zhang, Stanford graduate Brandon Wu and mid-amateur Stewart Hagestad.
Migliaccio’s performance helped lead the U.S. to mixed-team gold as well. It was surreal to stand on the podium twice. It might have been just what she needed. Migliaccio is the ultimate team player. She went 3-0 for Wake Forest in NCAA match play in the spring. She’s the heir apparent to lead a Demon Deacon team that will be Jennifer Kupcho-less in the fall.
Migliaccio says she tries to lead by example, and that she’ll approach the upcoming season that way. She wants everyone to feel included and doesn’t like the concept of seniority – unless it comes to picking seats in the team van. In that case, “the middle seat on the right with the desk” might as well have her name tag on it.
“Team” can mean a lot of things to Migliaccio, whether it’s a college setting, her family and coaches or her fellow Americans.
“It’s just this rush that I get. I get super excited,” Migliaccio said of playing in that atmosphere. “It’s not just about me, it’s about the people around me.”
That's a gold-medal formula.
ABOUT THE Pan American Games Women's Golf Tournament
72-hole stroke play competition with team and
individual competitions. The Pan American Games are
held among athletes from nations of the Americas,
every four years in the year before the Summer
Olympic Games. A variety of summer sports are
included; golf was added in 2015.
View Complete Tournament Information