Annie Dulman (USGA photo/Darren Carroll)
Annie Dulman has been waiting patiently for this one. For years, she had the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur circled on her calendar. It wasn’t so much that Dulman wanted to win it, it was simply that she wanted to play it. The fact is that when Dulman wrapped up a decorated college golf career at Rollins College in 2016 – after the Tars won the NCAA Division II national title that spring – she needed a break. Shelving her clubs allowed time to explore other things.
“I did tell myself that when I finished school, I’m not going to play a single golf tournament until I’m old enough to play in this tournament,” said Dulman.
In her debut this week at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Ariz., Dulman had rounds of 77-80 to miss the match cut by one shot. You can count on her being back.
The fact is that Dulman is too embedded in this sport not
to make use of her exceptional talent. As a freshman at Rollins in 2013, Dulman swept postseason accolades. She qualified for the NCAA Division II Women’s National Championship as an individual, finished T-9, and was not only named Division II National Freshman of the Year, but also National Player of the Year.
Hers is a story of coming back on her own terms, both in the professional sense and with a club in her hand.
As a kid, Dulman heard this line all the time: When you grow up, golf will be important for business. By the time Dulman reached her early 20s, she was skeptical.
“I was like, ‘Yeah yeah, I haven’t really seen that yet.’ People don’t really care,” she said.
Dulman, now 25, graduated in 2016 with a degree in political science, but never planned to make a career out of golf – at least one in which her livelihood depended on the sport. So after college Dulman began working for an event planning company near her Palm Beach, Fla., home. She played with her family from time to time, but nothing serious. Certainly no competition.
Much of her time at Rollins was spent exploring interests – she changed her major from communication to art, and finally to political science. Dulman viewed the latter as a study on people. It was perfect for a player dubbed “sunshine” by her college coach and teammates for her ever-optimistic disposition.
After deciding that event management wasn’t for her, Dulman took a job in partnerships development with the PGA of America in July 2018. That was weeks before the PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis. She hit the ground running, her golf background serving her well. Suddenly, golf was an asset.
“They wanted me to play more golf, so I was inherently playing more,” Dulman said.
Dulman is South Florida born-and-raised, so the fact that the PGA of America’s headquarters (for now, at least) is in Palm Beach Gardens made a lot of sense, too. At least until it didn’t. When the organization opened a New York City office, Dulman found herself packing her belongings.
Eligible to qualify for the Women’s Mid-Amateur for the first time this year (with a Sept. 25 birthday, Dulman missed out last year by a matter of days), there was also the business of switching her qualifier. Instead of playing in Florida, she decided to enter a New Jersey qualifier.
She was unexpectedly jittery on the first tee and had tripled her fourth hole.
“So this is how this is going to go,” she told herself. She gritted her teeth and finished off an 80, good to make it out of the qualifier with the sixth and final spot.
“It didn’t need to be this stressful,” Dulman laughed, admitting that the golf wasn’t pretty.
Dulman has always been good about not
making golf stressful. With this new opportunity for competition, Dulman had been careful to keep her expectations on par with her preparation. There hasn’t been as much of the latter as she would have liked.
She got a tee time on Bethpage Black with friends a few weeks into her stay in New York, and also managed a game at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. Other than that, it’s been a few shots here or there on a golf simulator. She practices her short game on a putting track in her apartment.
New York offers a lot of things but making time for golf is difficult – mostly for the commute time involved.
“You have to carve out an entire weekend day just to hit some golf balls,” Dulman said.
Less golf also leaves time for another of Dulman’s passions: theater. There’s no better place to live that New York City in that regard. Anyone who knows Dulman, who was president of her high school drama club, “knows Broadway is my favorite thing in the world.” Her knowledge of Broadway, Dulman says, rivals her knowledge of golf.
“And I feel like I know a lot about golf.”
Knowledge aside, the balance has been key.
“There’s as much golf in my life as I want there to be.”