Emilee Hoffman starts with putting drills. Then she moves to the indoor hitting simulator her father Jeff built in their garage years ago. After hours of practice, she makes the drive over to the Granite Bay Golf Club to play a round of golf.
It might sound like a normal day for a collegiate golfer, but things are anything but normal.
At this point in the season, Hoffman and her teammates were supposed to be preparing for NCAA Regionals and likely the NCAA Championships later this month. Hoffman, a senior, was planning to turn professional after the season finished in June and make her first start on the Symetra Tour at the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.
Instead, Hoffman announced her decision to turn professional at the end of March with her college and amateur careers cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. The abrupt end to her Texas career is bittersweet. But rather than dwell on the what-ifs of a lost season, Hoffman wants to think about the memories and success she found at Texas.
“We were really having a great year and truly felt like this was the year to win it all,” Hoffman said. “But we can’t forget about all the great things that we accomplished.”
Hoffman played a key role in Texas’ success under head coach Ryan Murphy the moment she stepped on the Forty Acres, winning in her second collegiate tournament. She pushed Texas to three consecutive Big 12 Championships and helped the Longhorns reach Match Play in the NCAA Championships last year for the first time in the program’s history.
“The program’s change in trajectory goes hand-in-hand with Emilee’s arrival on our campus in 2016,” Murphy said. “That is something I will always be grateful for because Emilee could have gone to any number of colleges. She chose to be a Longhorn, and I thank God that she did.”
Hoffman was a junior in high school when Murphy saw her play in person for the first time. Not only was she the first recruit Murphy watched play in person, but she was the first to officially visit Austin. From her routine to the way she carried herself on the course, Murphy knew she could be a program-defining player.
“I really remember her going about it like a professional,” Murphy said. “She went through her routine on every shot and how she responded to her mistakes was like a professional. All of that put together was enough for me.”
A lot of what can be found in Hoffman’s game can be traced back to her father. Jeff played golf competitively as an amateur during her childhood and brought her along to his tournaments. When he played in the 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur tournament, Jeff had her caddy for him. At only 12 years old, Hoffman could barely carry his golf bag around the course.
“She was the toast of the week,” Jeff said. “After that, I think she really saw it was something that she enjoyed and wanted to do.”
It wasn’t long before Hoffman began to dominate on the course, winning her first two American Junior Golf Association events. Soon she dropped all her other high school sports in favor of golf.
“Emilee’s always been able to see what’s required and what’s necessary to be successful at the next level,” Jeff said. “Right now, the next level is going to be professional golf.”
While many of the NCAA’s 460,000 student-athletes are stuck at home, Hoffman is able to do what many can’t — play her sport.
Unlike most team sports that require physical interaction with opponents, the ball or other equipment, the individual nature of golf allows Hoffman to continue to prepare for her professional career in the midst of the pandemic.
“I’m lucky,” Hoffman said. “We’re being really careful. We’re walking, not touching the pins, not shaking the hands of our playing partners.”
Even with the NCAA granting waivers for all spring-sports athletes to receive an extra year of eligibility, Hoffman knows she’s ready to move on.
“I was torn because I love Texas so much,” Hoffman said. “I’m ready for the next step of my life even though it’s hard to say goodbye.”