MANATEE COUNTY — Laura Torrisi’s first golf tournament didn’t quite go as planned.
The then 10-year-old finished dead last, and at one point during the tournament, she was even ready to call it quits.
But thanks to the encouragement of her father, Dennis, Torrisi stuck with the sport. Two years later she won her first nine-hole tournament.
“That’s when I got the bug,” said Torrisi, who works as the recreation director for Woodland, The Community Church. “I wanted to win. I told my parents I was going to be a pro then, but the work ethic wasn’t there.”
Torrisi’s passion for the sport intensified over the years, and now nearly two decades later the Massachusetts native still finds enjoyment in competition. On June 28-29, Torrisi returned to her home state to compete in the Massachusetts Women’s Open at Pleasant Valley Country Club where she finished tied for 20th.
“I played fairly well both days,” Torrisi said. “There were three holes that got me both days, which probably cost me about seven strokes, but I love the courses up there.”
At just 4 years old, Torrisi couldn’t wait to get out on the golf course — practically begging her father every day to take her out.
Finally, her mother, Judy, told Dennis to take Torrisi out, assuming her young daughter would never want to go out again. But that first trip out had the exact opposite effect on Torrisi.
For the next two years, Torrisi went out on the course with her father, but it wasn’t until she was 6 years old that Torrisi teed off for the first time. She began playing tournament golf when she was 10 years old, and by the time she was 15, all Torrisi wanted to do was practice.
She worked on her game with her father until she was 16, when she began working with Jacques Panet, now Braden River High’s girls golf coach. That summer, Torrisi’s parents dropped her off at the course, where she would spend the rest of the day playing 36 holes.
She joined her high school golf team, winning state titles in 1995 and 1997. Torrisi then went on to Campbell University on a golf scholarship. She won a couple collegiate tournaments and made the Trans American Athletic Conference all-conference team both as a junior and a senior.
During her collegiate career, Torrisi spent her summers playing amateur golf, capturing state amateur titles in 1999 and 2001. She was also named the Massachusetts Player of the Year in 1998 and 2000.
One of Torrisi’s most memorable moments came in 1998 when she won the New England amateur in a playoff. Torrisi shot 25 holes before she eventually edged past her competitor.
“That was (probably) the biggest tournament I’d played in since the state high school tournament,” Torrisi said. “It was awesome. You always want to win the state amateur.”
Torrisi went on to play the U.S. Amateur Championship three times — the last of which took her by surprise. After qualifying for match play, Torrisi found herself matched up against the top female golfer at the time. Torrisi knew she didn’t stand a chance, but even Torrisi wasn’t expecting the match to end the way it did — with the two playing 20 holes.
“I had no shot in the dark really, but I was able to take her to 20 holes,” Torrisi said. “The whole time I thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’”
After graduating in 2001 with a degree in sports management, Torrisi turned pro that fall after participating in Futures Qualifying School.
“I loved the game, and I loved to play in golf tournaments,” Torrisi said. “I wanted to practice every day. (Tournament golf) — it’s completely different. From that first tee you feel different. You’re in your own world. I guess I just loved to win.”
Torrisi spent three years on tour playing in tournaments across the country. One of her shining moments came in Albany, N.Y., during her final year on tour. She shot a 69 in the first round and found herself atop the leaderboard.
But as much as she loved playing the game, there came a point when Torrisi realized she just wasn’t cut out for the tour.
“When you hit the tour everyone has won their state amateur too,” Torrisi said. “Somewhere along the line I realized it wasn’t going to work. You can only give so much when your heart’s not in it anymore.
“I was good … maybe a little above good, but I wasn’t great; and you have to be great and almost perfect to play at that level,” she added.
After leaving the tour, Torrisi spent a little more than two years working at Bent Tree Country Club in Sarasota before assuming her current position at Woodland.
Today, Torrisi tries to get out on the course at least once a week or every couple weeks. And while she no longer competes on a regular basis, Torrisi has competed in the Massachusetts Women’s Open each of the past three years.
“I just love trying to shoot close to par,” Torrisi said. “I love competing. The practice you put into competition — I like seeing that practice go toward some sort of result.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].