A year ago Cara Vanderham was graduating from high school in Innisfail and had no idea what the future held, although she wanted golf to play a major role in it.
Today the 19-year-old is preparing to attend the California University of Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, on a golf scholarship.
“When I graduated last year I started writing to a number of schools and the coach there started talking to me every week and offered me a scholarship,” explained Vanderham while attending the McLennan Ross/Sun Junior Golf Tour media day at Wolf Creek Golf Resort Tuesday.
“I couldn’t be more excited. It’s what I’ve been working towards.”
Vanderham will leave for university on Aug. 20 and jump right into the golf program.
“I have to be there five days before school starts for a tournament,” she said.
“Then school begins on the 27th. I really don’t know what I’m getting myself into yet, but it will be awesome. It’ll be exciting to travel all over and play golf, practice every day and play tournaments on weekends.”
It’s tournament play that Vanderham feels has given her the experience and developed her game to the point where she could get a scholarship.
“Playing tournaments you learn so much about your game,” she said. “There is so much difference between playing in a tournament and just playing regular golf. I know I like tournament play because of the intensity and the adrenalin rush.”
Vanderham first took up the game when she was eight and got into tournament play when she was 12.
“I didn’t know anything then compared to now,” she said, adding her mental game has been the biggest improvement over the years.
She also credits the McLennan Ross tour for much of her development.
“It’s been very important. I started playing it when it came to my home course and played it every year. I play some other events, but I love this tour.”
Vanderham won the McLennan Ross championship last year at Wolf Creek, but won’t be around to defend her title this year.
“I start school the day of the tour final. I’m not worried about it, but I’ll still play some events.”
She will also compete in the Alberta Ladies Amateur, where she tied for 18th last year, and the Canadian Amateur.
“I’m 19 so I’m not eligible for the junior provincials, but I’m looking forward to the Amateur as it’s tougher competition and better experience as I’m playing against older women and it’s more competitive. It’s something that will help prepare me for college golf.”
Vanderham hasn’t played any tournaments so far this year.
“I enjoy skiing in the winter and golf in the summer. But it will be different down there as they start golf in February. Different, but good as I feel I’m ready to take golf more seriously.”
One of the McLennan Ross tournaments she will compete in this summer is the stop at the Innisfail Golf and Country Club on July 3.
The tour also stops in Rocky Mountain House on July 9, Lacombe, July 11, Ponoka, July 16, Camrose, July 19 and Olds, Aug. 15.
Overall there are 24 events, including the tour final at Wolf Creek, Aug. 27.