Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a four-part series with 22-year-old Symetra Tour rookie Sierra Brooks, who chronicled her 2020 season on Golfweek.com. The former Florida standout finished second at last year’s NCAA Championship to Maria Fassi and was a finalist at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She won three times in college and represented the U.S. at the Curtis Cup, Junior Ryder Cup and Junior Solheim Cup. Brooks finished 17th on the Symetra Tour money list, ending the season with three top 10s in her last four starts. Part I | Part II | Part III
I just wrapped up my second LPGA event of 2020, and I still don’t know many players. Many of them, however, think they know me. “Hey Nat!” Angela Stanford, Stacy Lewis and Ryann O’Toole called after me early week at the Pelican Women’s Championship, thinking I was Natalie Gulbis. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was out following Natalie at the Ginn Open as a shy 8-year-old. It’s wild that I’m now competing against her.
I was mic’d up for the first round at Pelican Golf Club with my dad on the bag, playing alongside Maria Fassi and Linnea Strom. When I later watched the coverage, I realized that I talk to myself even more than I thought.
We all struggled on the front nine, and it felt like survival mode on the back nine when the Golf Channel cameras switched on. They zoomed in on my dad and me after a double-bogey on No. 15, and it looked like I was crying with my hand over my face. I wasn’t crying, but I did let a word slip that I wish I could take back.
My dad was reminding me that I needed to play smart and miss it in the right spots. It’s tough because my dad sometimes has to play so many roles: coach, caddie and father.
My group tried to keep the conversation entertaining. You don’t want to bore the people who are watching!
I played in two LPGA events this year and made the cut in both. I definitely felt more comfortable last week at Pelican than I did in Toledo. Even though it’s still tournament golf, there are so many unknowns when it comes to the LPGA that it takes time to feel like you’ve got it under control. For example, Azahara Munoz came over to let me know that my dad wasn’t allowed on the putting green. I respected her for coming over to help me out. I overheard her call me the “new girl” and I certainly felt like one.
My dad came out to caddie for me on the Symetra Tour at the Carolina Golf Classic at Pinehurst and helped expose some of my weaknesses in course strategy. I was going at pins that I shouldn’t have been, rather than patiently letting the opportunities come to me. I finished tied for sixth that week and followed up with a third place in the season finale. I can’t wait for a full slate of events in 2021.
Obviously I want to get to the LPGA as soon as possible, but I found my time on the Symetra Tour this season extremely valuable. I hope to find a good sports psychologist over the offseason. Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way. I tend to get more hesitant over a shot when there’s trouble around rather than being fearless and committed.
When you’re at this level, everyone has the tools. But when you’re in season, it can be hard to search for something. You have to be mentally strong and trust yourself. I want to get more in touch with that side of the game, knowing my misses and my go-to shots.
And putting. It always comes down to putting.
I’m in Jupiter, Florida, today for an all-day shoot with TaylorMade. There will be different stations set up to build content for 2021. Maria Fassi will be there as well as Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa. I know Maria from college and Collin from junior golf, but this will be my first time meeting Rahm and DJ. I might be a little starstruck, but that’s OK.
I’m still a rookie, after all.