Meet Monica Vaughn, the NCAA champ who just shot 58 and never tried to play on tour

Beth Ann Nichols
·4 min read

Monica Vaughn wanted the record to indicate that she shot 58 from the forward tees on Saturday at Eugene (Oregon) Country Club. The setting was a college fundraiser – think music blaring in the carts, adult beverages ­– and nothing like conditions at the 2016 NCAA Championship, hosted by Oregon.

The forward tees at Eugene measure 5,587 yards and from there, the course currently is playing to a par 71. Normally, it’s a par 72 but the par-4 11th is under construction and temporarily playing as a par 3.

Vaughn, 25, who has struggled with the yips for years, had 11 birdies and an eagle on the day with 25 putts.

“My wedges were on fire,” she said.

The Oregon women’s assistant began to feel the pressure mount as word spread and men’s head coach Casey Martin came out to watch along with his assistant, Brad Lanning.

“I don’t think I’ve felt this nervous since winning the national championship,” said Vaughn, who won the individual title in 2017 and then helped Arizona State win the team title, too.

She shot 8 under on the front nine and was 11 under through 13 holes. When Martin showed up, Vaughn went from fundraiser mojo to full-on player mode.

A snap-hook off the tee on the 14th and a blocked shot right on the 16th into the trees got her thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’m just trying to give this away.”

Shooting 59 had never been a goal of Vaughn’s. She two-putted from 70 feet on the 17th hole and, after a flushed drive up the last, wedged it to tap-in range for a course-record 58.

Martin gave her a big hug.

“I was like, I think I’m gonna cry now,” said Vaughn.

And so she did.

Since the day Vaughn pulled out of the first stage of LPGA Q-School (before it started), she has fielded the same question: Why didn’t you give the tour a shot?

The question has popped up often again since the 58.

The simplest answer is that pro golf was never a goal of Vaughn’s. From the day she committed to Arizona State, the goal was to win a national title. The pursuit of that goal, Vaughn admits, got a little unhealthy at times. But her storybook senior year ended with an individual title at both NCAA regionals and the NCAA Championship, with a team title at the latter.

That team aspect is important, too. Growing up playing volleyball and basketball in high school, Vaughn loved being part of a team. When she signed up for two mini-tour events in preparation for Q-School, she just didn’t feel it. Her heart couldn’t commit.

Vaughn withdrew from Q-School and took a job waitressing at Houston’s in Scottsdale.

“She’s extremely talented,” said ASU head coach Missy Farr-Kaye, “but you’ve got to want it.”

The drive and passion for the game started to return when Vaughn, who grew up in Reedsport, Oregon, took the job in Eugene in August 2018.

Her new goal is to follow in the footsteps of Farr-Kaye by winning nationals as a player, assistant coach and then head coach.

“I just think that would be the total trifecta,” she said.

Because the Pac-12 isn’t competing this spring, only one Oregon player is on campus this semester. Eight weeks ago, Vaughn started Vision54’s SuperCoach54 program and said the 58 is no coincidence.

To get rid of the yips – which she even battled when she won nationals – Vaughn said she drastically cut down on the amount of information she was taking in over putts.

No practice strokes. She stopped looking at the putt from other angles. Her routine became as simple as mark it, clean it, look at the putt from behind the hole, focus on the speed, pick a line and go.

After the 58, Martin asked what she’d done differently. When she told him about her simplified routine, he said he’d been doing the same for years.

Last April, Vaughn got her amateur status back. She was hoping to try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open this year and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but COVID-19 kept that from happening.

There have been times, she said, when she asks herself the inevitable questions: Did I screw up? Should I have considered this harder?

In September, Vaughn caddied for Bailey Tardy at the Cambia Portland Classic and wondered if a week inside the ropes at an LPGA event would make her second-guess all over again.

Instead, she came back home to Eugene more confident than ever that she’d made the right call: “I have a freaking boatload of fun.”

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