‘I feel more like a kid again’: Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio enjoying last go-around at ANNIKA Intercollegiate

LAKE ELMO, Minn. – Emilia Migliaccio didn’t go far when her round ended.

Her eyes peered behind her at the green and down the fairway, closely watching her teammates Carolina Lopez-Chacarra and Rachel Kuehn. Migliaccio was the first person to greet both as they walked off the par-5 18th green after wrapping up their first round at the 2022 ANNIKA Intercollegiate at Royal Golf Club outside of Minneapolis.

Last year at this time, Migliaccio wasn’t playing competitive golf. In the four years prior, she became a standout for the Wake Forest women’s golf team, claiming five individual titles and looking as if she was bound for a wonderful professional career. But last year, she stepped away from the game. She was in grad school at Wake Forest. But Migliaccio quickly realized she missed competitive golf.

So, using her fifth year because of COVID, she’s back with the Demon Deacons, and Monday was her first round back in team competition, firing a 2-over 74 that included a birdie on her final hole but also plenty of missed putts, leading her to the practice green near the clubhouse for a while as the sun set.

ANNIKA Intercollegiate: Scores

“I’ve been telling people going from the professional side, where you’re working, to going to be the athlete again where you can hang around and focus on golf and be all over the place, I feel more like a kid again,” Migliaccio said. “It’s kind of fun to feel that.

“Now, I just have to make some putts tomorrow.”

Migliaccio didn’t have first-tee jitters, saying it hasn’t felt like she took a year off. And she has played competitive golf in recent months, playing in the Curtis Cup in June and winning the North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 in July.

Yet the college team aspect is something she missed, and that’s why she wanted to be a part of the action well after her final putt dropped Monday.

“During the practice round, we felt like she hadn’t missed a beat,” Wake Forest coach Kim Lewellen said. “We didn’t even remember that she wasn’t involved last year. The maturity that she has and the maturity that she has gained being a year older and with her commentating, writing and all of that, she has even learned more about the game.

“Everything that she has experienced is like having a third coach. It’s something that you can’t replace.”

Migliaccio’s return comes at a good time for the Demon Deacons, who are one of the preseason favorites to win the NCAA title. They check in at No. 3 on the Golfweek preseason women’s golf rankings. Along with Migliaccio, who is on the ANNIKA Award preseason watch list for women’s college golf Player of the Year, teammates Kuehn and Lopez-Chacarra also share that honor. The trio are also preseason All-Americans. Lauren Walsh is also expected to make a big impact.

Wake Forest sits tied for sixth after the opening round, but there’s no worry from Migliaccio or her teammates. She knows the season is a long process, but she’s looking forward to everything that’s to come.

“It’s playing for something more than yourself,” Migliaccio said. “It’s not just about myself and my shot. If I’m sacrificing a shot, I’m sacrificing one for the whole team. I’m playing smarter because I’m thinking about my coaches and other players. I don’t feel like a coach or anything. Obviously, I want to win and I want our team to win, but it’s all about how can we keep getting better so when postseason comes, we’re at the peak of our game.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek