Jennifer Ha reflects on her LPGA rookie seasonWritten by Wes Gilbertson
Jennifer Ha competing in the Bank of Hope Founders’ Cup in Phoenix in March, 2017
Jennifer Ha is proud to be representing Calgary, proud to be representing Alberta, proud to be representing Canada as a rookie on the LPGA Tour.
There are days, though, that she misses home a little less than others.
“Right now, I feel soooo lucky to be in Florida,” Ha admitted after a sun-drenched, short-sleeved range session in early March, a day that family and friends would have been shoveling sidewalks and scraping windshields back home.
“Because thinking back, I’m like, ‘Wow, it was really cold when I was out there practising.’ It would be like 20-below — you know how cold it gets in Calgary in the winter — but I’d still be on the range, and I would turn all the heaters on and I would be out there with my dad. I would have, like, four or five layers on. It would be hard for me to swing, but I’d still be out there.
“I was pretty competitive. I didn’t want anybody to have an upper hand, so I would grind it out in the cold, I guess.”
All that hard, sometimes shivery work has paid off.
Raised in the Stampede City but now based in the Sunshine State, Ha was one of the success stories of LPGA Tour Q-School last fall. Despite a bout with the flu at the worst possible time, she gutted out a tie for eighth at the final stage of the three-part qualifying quest, a result that guarantees full status for 2017.
“Being from a winter sport country, it definitely feels like I’ve achieved something that not a lot of people do,” said Ha, who fired a five-round tally of 8-under 352 at the final entrance exam. “I definitely have that sense of pride with me when I’m out there — just knowing that I’m from Calgary and I’m from Alberta and that’s where my roots are.”
Now 23, Ha was a junior member at Inglewood and later at Glencoe and Country Hills.
She collected hardware at several other courses close to home. At Lynx Ridge, for example, where she triumphed at the 2015 Sun Life Financial Alberta Ladies Amateur Championship, turning pro soon after. At Nanton, where she claimed her first provincial title as a bantam in 2008. And in between, at Canmore Golf & Curling Club and then River’s Edge, where she was crowned Alberta’s junior girls’ champion in 2011 and repeated the feat the following summer.
Before any of those trophy presentations, Ha was a star-struck spectator when the LPGA Tour stopped at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton in 2007 for what’s now known as the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. (She’s since teed off in her national open three times, including a missed-cut last August at Priddis Greens.)
“I don’t feel like it was that long ago for me since I was sitting on the range, looking up to all these players,” Ha said. “I was searching in my room the other day and I found a flag from the Mayfair Club and I had Michelle Wie sign it when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. And then in Australia, at the second event of the season, I had dinner with her.
“I was sitting across the table from her thinking, ‘Wow, a few years ago, I was getting her autograph.’ That was pretty cool.”
It’s pretty cool, too, for aspiring and emerging birdie-seekers from Alberta to see one of their own on Golf Channel.
“I think it serves as motivation that it can be done,” said Luke Workman, one of the coaches to Team Alberta’s junior girls. “That, yeah, you can practise inside and deal with all the hindrances that come along with our climate and still make a go of it, still reach the LPGA Tour.”
“I think the fact that she’s there is going to make a statement,” echoed Laura Witvoet, the first woman from the Wild Rose Province to compete on the LPGA Tour and now the general manager and director of instruction at Wolf Creek Golf Resort. “This just solidifies that it can happen, that it’s a possibility, that it’s real.”
Ha is proof of it.
She is a past member of Team Alberta and has climbed the ranks with Golf Canada — from the development program to the national amateur team to the Young Pro Squad.
She played many of the same tournaments as the current wave of up-and-comers. She shared some of the same experiences.
She knows what it’s like to swing a golf club in an outfit better suited for skiing.
“She won the Alberta Bantam Championship when she was 14, and I have her golf bag in my office at the Edge School,” said Randy Robb, head coach of Team Alberta and also golf director at the Edge School for Athletes. “Students will ask, ‘What’s that?’ Well, that’s Jennifer Ha’s golf bag. She won the Bantam Championship and now she’s on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s a tremendously long process. She played well as a bantam, and then she went to the Western Canada Summer Games and the Canada Games and then four years at Kent State.
That’s 10 years of competitive golf.
“There was a lot of hard work put in, for sure. And there was success at every level — bantam and then junior and college, and then trying to figure out the next level and then working hard towards that.”
On Tour with Jennifer Ha
This article was originally published in the 2017 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.