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Stanford’s Rachel Heck wins NCAA championship, becomes third player to sweep the postseason. Here’s why she won’t turn pro.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Rachel Heck paused for a somber second after she heard the title Victoria Pinckney on the first tee. On Friday, each player in subject at the NCAA Championship performed in reminiscence of a fallen U.S. soldier. Air Force captain Pinckney, a 27-year-old mother, died in Kyrgyzstan whereas serving throughout Operation Enduring Freedom.

Heck walked over to the starter to write down Pinckney’s title earlier than she left the tee field. The Stanford freshman held a 5-shot lead going into the remaining spherical, however at this second, her thoughts was far-off from what was on the line. Heck joined the ROTC program at Stanford and hopes to serve in the Air Force Reserve whereas competing on the LPGA.

It was a battle, however Heck went on to win the NCAA Championship by a shot over UCLA’s Emma Spitz. Heck shot a remaining spherical 74 to end at 8 underneath. She’s the first Cardinal to win medalists honors at the NCAAs. The Memphis product additionally turned solely the third player in historical past to sweep the postseason by successful convention, regionals and nationals. Annie Park did the similar at USC in 2013 as a freshman. Arizona’s Marisa Baena turned the first in 1996, additionally as a freshman. Both Heck and Park pulled off the trifecta of their first semester at school.

The upbeat Heck, 19, arrived on campus Feb. 13 after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the fall semester and promptly gained six occasions in 9 begins.

Some would possibly marvel, what’s left to show?

When Park dominated the postseason eight years in the past, it seemed like she would possibly take a bullet prepare to the LPGA, and nobody would’ve blamed her. There are examples of nice gamers who seemingly stayed too lengthy at school and spun their wheels. Some even obtained worse.

There are far, way more gamers, nevertheless, who turned professional too early and sputtered at the subsequent stage, becoming a member of the where-are-they-now heap.

What ought to Heck do?

The smile says all of it: She’s having the time of her life.

Before Heck teed off on Monday, she walked over to teammate Angelina Ye and wrapped her up in a bear hug. Ye was in second place and enjoying in the group forward.

“I’ll be cheering from behind,” Heck advised her.

NCAA Womens Golf: NCAA Women's Golf Championship

NCAA Womens Golf: NCAA Women’s Golf Championship

Stanford golfer Rachel Heck tees off on the eleventh gap throughout the NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo by Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

The crew earlier than self is real with Heck, who lives it out every single day in ROTC coaching. It’s at her core, and it appears that evidently no quantity of success this semester can tempt her away from Stanford life.

Loyalty runs deep in her veins.

Heck is writing a narrative is certain to transcend sports activities media not to mention golf. No girl has ever served in the navy reserves whereas competing on the LPGA. Sponsors ought to line up to be part of Heck’s story, to assist unfold a healthful message of service, sacrifice and excellence.

It’s laborious to quantify precisely how a lot Heck’s ardour for ROTC has freed her up to play such exceptional golf. The quest to grow to be the greatest player in the world is now not all-consuming for her.

One factor is for certain, it’s an vital message for fogeys of younger gamers all over the place.

Encourage the pursuit of different passions. Think long-term. Don’t stress your child.

The grind can wait. Do what makes you content.

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