GREENWOOD, Ind. (WTHR) – Sixteen-year-old Erica Shepherd loves long drives off the tee on long summer days at Dye’s Walk Country Club in Greenwood.
“I love this course with my whole heart,” said Shepherd. “Whenever I’m gone in tournaments, I always get homesick. I think this course is like probably my best friend then.”
Erica’s best friend waits for her at the back gate. When she’s not playing in a tournament out of town, Erica plays Dye’s Walk seven or eight hours a day. The 18th fairway is just a short walk out the back door of her house.
“I think it’s everything,” said Shepherd. “Having Dye’s Walk in my backyard growing up, I didn’t have to drive 20 minutes to a golf course. I can just walk back out. If I get tired, I can go in for 10 minutes and go back out. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Her first time on the course has when her dad took her along for a round in the golf cart in a car seat as a two-year-old. Erica grew up on the Greenwood golf course, where her coach, Brent Nicoson, used to be the head pro.
“She’s a complete competitor,” said Nicoson, also the men’s and women’s golf coach at University of Indianapolis. “She does not want to lose. She’ll do anything it takes not to lose, including her work ethic. Big stages are better for her. If there is pressure on and a crowd is watching, she’s probably going to pull it off.”
School starts next week for the Center Grove junior, but Erica will miss a couple weeks of classes playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Chula Vista, California, (August 7-13) and then the Junior Solheim Cup in Des Moines, Iowa (August 14-16). She’s one of 12 teenagers selected to take on Europe’s best juniors.
“It’s the 1st time that I will have ever represented my country playing golf,” said Shepherd. “So, to play for something bigger than myself, I think that will be huge.”
Erica played in the U.S. Open last year at just 15 years old. She’s currently ranked 9th in the country among American junior girls and has already committed to play college golf at Duke University.
“I want to play four years at Duke and then I want to go straight to the LPGA and I want to win every single major,” said Shepherd matter of fact.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that she can make it,” said Nicoson. “She’s a competitor. She works her butt off and she wants it too much not to. I quit doubting her a long time ago.”
Big dreams have become a reachable green for a girl just playing in her backyard.
“Comparing golf to other sports, I liked how courses that I play are different every time,” said Nicoson. “Like a basketball court is always the same. But getting to travel the world and always being outside, I like that. I’d say my golf game is pretty risky, I guess. I’m really competitive. If I’m fired up, then I’ll just go for whatever I want. I never really give up. I always try to make everything.”
Erica is playing this week in the U.S. Girls Junior tournament in Augusta, Missouri.