Tequesta's Annette DeLuca, enjoying life as a teaching pro, enters LPGA Championship on a roll
Source: Palm Beach Post
When it came to golf, Annette DeLuca followed her own plan.
It's a credit to her athletic ability, DeLuca - a two-sport star at Cardinal Newman in the 1980s - was able to pick up the game at age 18 and eventually carve out career on the LPGA Tour.
Now 43, living in Tequesta and teaching at Delaire Country Club in Delray Beach, DeLuca hopes to buck convention again at this week's LGPA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y.
It will be her first start since the 2008 event, where she missed the cut. But DeLuca, who tees off at 2:27 p.m. in the final group of the day, anticipates a good week at the season's second major championship.
"Honestly, I'm playing the best I ever have in my career," she said. "Every day when you're teaching, you're learning yourself."
Through teaching, DeLuca also has found her niche after a long grind on tour, with mixed results.
DeLuca became an LPGA rookie in 1996, but in the next 10 years her career never took off like many expected.
The All-State softball player and three-time state champion for Sam Budnyk at Cardinal Newman, DeLuca hit the golf ball a mile, earning her the nickname "Babe" - after Babe Zaharias .
"Everybody always said to me, 'I don't understand. You had the talent, you had the ability,'" DeLuca said.
DeLuca said Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez once told her close friend, "you should be winning."
DeLuca came close when she finished runner-up to Alison Nicholas in the 1999 Sunrise Hawaiian Ladies Open. DeLuca's next-best finish during her career was a tie for 11th at the 1998 LPGA Championship.
Her $281,750 in career earnings is less than first place will pay this week ($375,000), yet she doesn't measure her career as a tour pro by winning or money.
DeLuca has played just six LPGA events since 2005, but said former caddies tell her that she's still remembered by the people she played with in pro-ams.
"Every time I played the pro-am my job was to make those four people fans of the LPGA and fans of Annette DeLuca," she said. "It's not how many tournaments you win or how much money you make, it's if you make a difference."
DeLuca feels she's making a difference as a teaching pro .
"There's nothing better than winning, but when you can help somebody reach their goals, it's such a great feeling," she said.
Take Mary Jane Saunders, who recently completed her first year as president at Florida Atlantic University and came to DeLuca in November, having never played golf but determined to learn in time for the pro-am for the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton in February. Saunders, with two lessons a week from DeLuca, ended up making an eagle as her pro-am team won.
"She's really proud of it," DeLuca said. "That's what makes me happy."
But DeLuca also is excited to return to her old life for a week.
She qualified to play this week by winning the Southeast section in the spring of 2010 with a final-round 68 at West Palm Beach Country Club - the ladies' course record. .
"I want to make the cut," she said. "I just want to go out and put two good rounds together and see what happens."