Brookfield’s Sarah Balding will compete on golf’s finest stage—Augusta National— this coming Sunday, April 7 at 8am EST
Augusta, GA (April 4, 2019) – Being the President of your high school’s Symphony Orchestra and competing at such a high level in golf may seem incongruous at first glance, but the two go hand-in-hand for 15-year-old Sarah Balding of Brookfield, Wisconsin. She’s got the track record to prove it.
Whether she faces a ten foot slider on the final hole to make the cut, or must hit every note on her violin just perfectly, Sarah is more than comfortable with any kind of pressure.
“I have been playing golf since I was very young. We would go out as a family and play nine holes here and there. At first, I was never very interested; however, I began to take the sport seriously for the past four or five years, ” states Balding during a phone interview with the Wisconsin PGA.
Although her childhood consisted of living in Peoria (IL), Eau Claire —and even one year in Montana—Balding is thriving during her freshman year as a varsity golfer on the girls’ team at Brookfield Central and on the Wisconsin PGA Junior Tour circuit. Her 2018 calendar consisted of statewide, regional and national competitions, weekly off-season practices, and lessons with swing coach and PGA Professional, Chuck Wood. Highlights included a trip to the WIAA Girl’s State Championship recording a 4th place finish on her team coached by Brian Scrobel. Balding accumulated over 400 points as an individual on the WPGA Junior Tour Player of the Year rankings over seven events. Her decorated golf career thus far landed her the number one individual ranking via Wisconsin.golf in the Girl’s Class of 2022.
Sarah actually missed her first varsity meet to compete at the Drive, Chip and Putt Regional this past September at Whistling Straits. With her last year of DCP eligibility, she knew she had a job to do. Ultimately, Balding found herself in the middle of a playoff for the coveted trip to Augusta National. Her chipping was put to the test after both Balding and Shannyn Vogler (Illinois) striped drives down the middle. Sarah came away victorious and the waiting game came to an end—that was it. She was headed to Augusta National as one of the 80 finalists from all over the continent! For results and a recap on last year’s Regional at Whistling Straits, click here.
“I am obviously looking forward to the competition, but also really excited to be on the course. My family is coming to support me, in fact my sister Emily (a college golfer at DePauw University in Indiana) is flying in before we head down. We’re going a few days early to practice on greens— practice on real grass, “ chuckles Sarah. “Real grass is hard to come by for Wisconsinites this time of year. I get to go to the practice round on Monday, and then we’ll probably play somewhere on Tuesday before we head back home.”
During the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship, finalists are permitted to use a caddie, and Sarah is looking forward to employing swing coach Chuck Wood. Sounds like the two already have a game plan in the works. Yes, a few butterflies are expected as she puts her skills to the test against the world’s best in front of 5,000+ spectators—all while competing at golf’s holiest of grounds—but she’s ready.
“Golf has taught me to approach problems in different ways. You can play the same (…) course a million times and you’ll always have a different shot. You have to figure out how to perform your best in any situation coming your way. It’s very similar to life,” Sarah realizes. “You can only practice and prepare so much, but when it comes down to (it), you have to handle (things) as they come.”
That’s one good dose of medicine coming from a 15-year-old. Wise words we can all live by no matter what comes our way. Did you know Sarah will go straight from the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals to the State Solo & Ensemble competition for her violin solo? She received a perfect score on her class A solo this past year. Yeah, we think Sarah’s future is bright no matter the stage.
Written by: Erika Pirkl, PGA—Director of Player Development, Wisconsin PGA
Make sure to tune into the Golf Channel for coverage starting at 8am EST/7am CST on Sunday, April 7. Best of luck to Sarah—we know you will represent Wisconsin well!