Jacqueline Putrino has always acted like a professional on the course and prepared like one, even as a junior golfer.
Now, she's a professional for real.
Putrino, a two-time individual state champion and one-time team state champion while at Riverview High, played in her first event as a pro at the Florida State Golf Association's Florida Women's Open, held July 28-30 at Grand Harbor Golf and Beach Club in Vero Beach. Putrino finished with a 208 at the three-day Open, two strokes behind winner Jordan Fischer of Cape Coral, who is a Louisiana State University signee. Putrino received a check of $5,500 for her finish.
Putrino wasn't nervous when approaching the first tee, she said. She's been preparing for this step her whole career. Her dream became reality.
That dream, though exciting, also had consequences: turning professional means that Putrino's college golf career has come to an end. Putrino, 19, committed to Florida State University out of high school and spent a semester with the Seminoles before transferring to Oklahoma State University. She had three starts for the Seminoles in the fall, in which she recorded a stroke average of 73.75 and shot 75 or better in six of her eight rounds played. But after an additional semester with the Cowgirls — one where she was ineligible to play in tournaments because of her transfer — Putrino realized college golf was not the game best suited to helping her achieve her goals.
"I have a coach here named David Whelan, and he helps with my game so much," Putrino said. "Whenever I would go back to college after working with him, I would realize how important it was to be around him. That was a big part of the decision."
Whelan is the coach of current world No. 1 women's golfer Nelly Korda, a Bradenton native, and has also worked with LPGA Major winners Paula Creamer and Catriona Matthew among other clients. Putrino said Whelan has especially helped with her short game, with their being a "dramatic improvement" in both her putting accuracy and speed. She put her new putting skills to use at the Women's Open, Putrino said; everything was falling for her.
As happy as Putrino was with her debut pro performance, she also hopes it is just the beginning of her next chapter.
Starting Aug. 24, Putrino will participate in the Epson Tour's Q School, or qualifying school, in an attempt to play professionally full-time. The Epson Tour is the the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour; Q School is for players wanting to get on the Epson Tour. It's a series of tournaments played in stages, with a given number of golfers advancing through each stage. Stage one will take the form of a 72-hole stroke play event, played at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, and at Indian Wells Country Club in Indian Wells, California, plus an additional 18-hole final round at Mission Hills.
Ultimately, the top 95 finishers will advance to stage two at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice in October. Putrino will see how she does in stage one of Q School before making any plans for later in the year.
She's excited to test herself against other players in her position and does not expect to feel any nerves despite never previously playing those California courses in stage one. Putrino said Whelan has helped her with the mental side of her game as much as the physical side — not with any fancy tricks, but by reminding her that golf is played one shot at a time. It's an easy thing to forget when your mind is racing, Putrino said, and it has helped her stay calm when she finds herself in a difficult spot.
Putrino is a professional now, but she has not lost her sense of fun. After receiving her first check, Putrino made a singular purchase: A cat named Harvey, after the "Suits" character Harvey Specter. Harvey cost Putrino $100 and is quite a talkative animal, she said. Putrino is also not done with her education, taking online college classes when not working on her game. But she's making money playing golf, and soon she'll be vying to play alongside the best in the world.
"It still doesn't feel real," Putrino said. "It came quicker than I expected. I thought I would have a little more time in college golf. But I'm ready."
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.