With Injury Came An Epiphany To Find Off Course Success - Elizabeth Doty MTG Series
Elizabeth Doty had always envisioned leaving California for college. After all, her father was a native Philadelphian and there was such a big country out there to explore. She’d worked really hard in high school, on and off the course, and was rewarded with an opportunity to play at one of the ACC’s powerhouse programs. College stardom and the LPGA beckoned. But an injury her freshman year caused her to sit back and reassess her priorities.
Born in Pasadena and raised in Palos Verdes, Elizabeth was introduced to golf by her father, a really good, self-taught player. He was such a fanatic, that he not only got Elizabeth into the game, but her mom and brother as well.
“We started playing as a family foursome on a par-3 course in Torrance called Sea Aire when I was six or seven,” Elizabeth says. “Spending that family time together is what originally drew me to the game.”
A natural athlete, Elizabeth took to the game very quickly. She played in her first tournament, a U.S. Kids event, when she was nine.
“I topped my ball off the first tee, but my dad was caddying for me and calmed me down. I remember making a 40-footer to par the hole and coming in third place. It was a great introduction to competitive golf.”
When she was 11, she broke 80 for the first time. Up to that point, she’d played sports like soccer, swimming, softball and basketball in addition to golf.
“When we finished that round, my dad told me that not many 11-year-olds could do what I’d just done and that I could get a college scholarship if I continued to work. From that moment on, I was all in on golf.”
At around the same time, she also graduated from playing nine- to 18-hole tournaments. She had a great coach at the time, Jerome Andrews, who helped Elizabeth and her family navigate the somewhat complex network of junior golf tournaments, setting her on a path to play in AJGA events.
“I was 12 years old when I qualified for my first AJGA event in Antioch, California. I was so excited. I played with an 18-year-old girl who was headed to UC-Davis to play. She outdrove me by 60 or 70 yards on every hole. But I held my own and it showed me I could play at that level.”
More regular exposure to AJGA competition came from playing in the SCPGA’s Toyota Tour Cup. Points earned from the Toyota Tour gave her a berth in an AJGA event in Oklahoma where she finished top-five. Her confidence further grew from there.
“I was incredibly fortunate that my parents were so supportive of my goals and able to take me around the country to play in events.”
One of these events was the ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex in Orlando.
“It was so exciting to meet Annika. I remember her introducing herself to me and a group of other girls on the practice tee, saying ‘Hi, I’m Annika’ just like a regular person. She was so personable and down-to-earth. It was cold and windy at that event and I didn’t play so well, but it was still an awesome experience. The level of competition with all the international players was especially eye-opening.”
Elizabeth played at Palos Verdes High School from ninth through 12th grade. She was valedictorian and focused on leaving California for college, so she zeroed in on Wake Forest and several Ivy League schools. Her goal was to play on the LPGA Tour, so Wake won out as it offered the exceptional academics and athletics she craved. Elizabeth graduated a semester early, packed her bags and flew across country to begin her next chapter in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Already younger than the typical college freshman, Elizabeth redshirted. She initially struggled with the multi-tasking required to balance top-notch athletics and academics. And while she liked the campus and made great friends, like teammate Sierra Sims, she injured her shoulder weightlifting soon after arriving on campus.
“I didn’t work out very much as a junior golfer, so when I got to Wake that was a huge transition. As a result of the injury, I had to take four months off from practicing.”
With her newfound free time, Elizabeth had a bit of an epiphany.
“Although it had been my goal since I was a little girl, I realized I didn’t want to play professional golf. I’d had time to explore other interests and it made me reassess my priorities. Up to that point, I’d been so dedicated to golf that I’d never missed a day of practice – I even regularly hit balls on Christmas Day.”
After the injury, she returned for the 2013-14 season. Battling through a hip injury and mononucleosis, she preserved to play in the ACC tournament and NCAA Regionals.
However, despite her on-course success and loving the school and friends she’d made, she missed California and decided to look at transfer options.
Elizabeth’s number one priority was to go to a school that would be just as academically rigorous as Wake. UCLA, USC and Pepperdine all checked that box. UCLA was an obvious first choice as both her parents were alumni, but sadly there was no room on the team. Ironically, the Bruins’ cross-town rival would be the beneficiary.
“I had a lot of family members and friends who’d attended USC. Jim Gormley, the head pro at our family club, was also a volunteer assistant at USC and helped to ease my transition. I had childhood friends there, too, people like Gabby Then and Victoria Morgan and Rachel Morris. The final piece of the puzzle that helped me make my choice was that I could apply directly to USC’s Marshall Business School, while UCLA didn’t have an undergraduate business option. The stars just aligned for me to become a Trojan.”
Now closer to home, Elizabeth flourished on and off the course, logging significant playing time during her sophomore and senior seasons.
“My best memory from USC is playing for Andrea Gaston, an incredible mentor and coach. She treated her players so well and was huge for my personal and emotional growth.”
Elizabeth is still mentored by the legendary coach to this day. And as important as on-course success was for Coach Gaston, off-course advancement mattered, too.
“Andrea encouraged players to take summer internships. Going into my junior year in the summer of 2015, I worked with Zurich Insurance in its marketing department. My managers were huge golfers and starting every day talking about golf was awesome. I only played two tournaments that summer, but that was OK.”
The following summer Elizabeth moved up to San Francisco to intern at Oracle. She found that position via the USC Athletics Career Fair, showing the power of the school’s athletic network. Not ready to quite be done with golf just yet, upon graduating in December 2016, she spent five months working for the AJGA.
“The AJGA was the perfect stepping-stone for me to transition into the professional world. It was really cool being able to give back to an organization that had helped me so much. I loved working with the kids and it showed me how there’s so much opportunity out there to work in golf beyond playing professionally.”
After that, Elizabeth once again struck it rich through a college job fair, landing her current position with NetSuite, a cloud computing company which had just been acquired by Oracle.
“My role is to help bring companies onto the platform. I like it because I get to really know my customers as I’m with them for the entire time as they get introduced to our services – it could be anywhere from four months to two years.”
Elizabeth now lives in Denver and enjoys playing golf on weekends and after work. It’s a great way to de-stress and still a big part of her life.
As she looks back on her journey from West Coast to East Coast and then back, there are three main pieces of advice she’d give her younger self:
1. “You’re so much more than your score on the course.”
2. “Your score doesn’t define who you are as a person.”
3. “Golf will give you so much – your best friends, your values and your work ethic.”
With that kind of perspective and all she’s accomplished in her on and off-course life, there’s little doubt even bigger things are in store for Elizabeth.