Rachel Hetherington Coming Back to the Game
Even a game that doesn’t appear to move all that fast, such as golf, moves with a distinct intensity when you see and feel it up close. This is not a weekend round with friends, despite the fact that you’re playing with your peers. Coming back to touring golf after a long absence, then, is not a case of a couple of quick trips to the range and the putting green. It’s more than getting your game back in shape – and Australian Rachel Hetherington knows that.
Hetherington, in her time with the LPGA, won between five and six million, and scored eight wins, appearing for three years as Rachel Teske. On three occasions, she triumphed in a play-off over Annika Sorenstam. That being a fact, why would I worry about someone trying to re-enter professional play after four years off, especially someone who has won eight times, even though not a household word. For the moment, we needn’t worry about Rachel Hetherington. She’s coming back into the Australian circuit, but not the LPGA for the moment.
Australia is a great place in which to be a golfer, and the country has produced a mess of champions, both men and women. One of the problems, however, is that in purely logistical terms, it’s a long ways from the bulk of events. Europeans, Americans, and Canadians can fly there once or twice a year, but an Australian who leaves home for the tour isn’t going to return very soon. Plane travel from that part of the world is serious business and money. Jet lag is a real problem if you don’t manage it well. Maintaining one’s self on tour is expensive and exhausting, not to mention those in the entourage. Rachel Hetherington is clear that to come back into full scale international combat would mean missing her family. She’s also in a people-oriented business, and would not be able to see clients regularly. Being forty-two is vastly different from the teens and twenties. There is so much one can do in the forties, but the priorities are so distinctly rearranged from the earlier years.
Hetherington has set her sights on a few immediate goals, including the Ladies Masters and the Women’s Australian Open, along with other events of the Australia tour.
So, why would I worry about a woman who knows how to play coming back to the game? When I see how difficult comebacks are for other games and sports, I realize that it takes a special person to do it. If Lorena Ochoa or Annika sat out four years before deciding to return, I would have thought that after a year, perhaps, of re-acclimatization, they would become champions again. Golf is not a game where an older player is doomed by his or her age, and yet, it appears as though Rachel Hetherington is doing this the smart way, by returning to the tour of a strong golfing nation that is also her home. She’s preserving the best of all her worlds, and still leaving herself the potential to keep on winning, with the assistance of a new coach, Randall Hollands Smith. As a former winner for the LPGA, it would be nice for those of us in the West to see her again, at least in some majors. That probably won’t happen very often, though. Rachel Hetherington can still play a great game of golf, but she also knows where home is.