Macy Ludwig is her own golfer in a family that has seen plenty of success on the course.
Her father, Jeff, introduced her, her two brothers, Luke and Lane, and sister Tesa, to the sport. He has encouraged and supported all of them in their golf endeavors while not forcing it upon them.
“When I was four or five, my dad would always bring us out to the course,” she said. “It wasn’t overwhelming. We were just raised like that. He has been very encouraging and supportive through everything and he doesn’t force the sport upon us, but since we’ve grown into it we all love it.”
Now a senior at St. Anthony High School, her life and her golf game changed after her dad introduced her to Mike Moncel, a swing coach who is also the Eastern Illinois University girls and boys golf coach. She recalls that before seeking his assistance, she attended2 tournaments just for the atmosphere and the challenge.
“I was going to tournament just for the feel and warmup to tournament play because it’s a lot different that going out and playing,” she said. “Then I went to state my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years.
“I didn’t do awesome.”
At first she took instruction infrequently. But as she improved, it became more frequent; more determined.
“In the beginning it wasn’t as often. Now I’m going once a week, sometimes twice. He’s taught me putting, chipping, but mostly working on swing. We even go in the winter for lessons,” she said.
After the season is over she gets just one month off then back to working with Moncel, putting in his garage and adjusting her swing.
“We’re putting in his garage. I do once a week. That’s pretty good for me, it’s not overwhelming. I’m still thinking about golf. It’s winter. We’re improving. It doesn’t really matter that he’s changing my swing and I’m not hitting the ball right,” she said. “That’s what the winter is for – to change my technique – and once the spring starts going out and implementing that correction and it’s done for summer and that’s how we improve.”
Her competitive nature started in fifth grade.
“Around fifth grade I started (competing) in summer tournaments,” she said of the Prep Tour run by Sean Kennedy that’s designed to “provide junior golfers numerous affordable, competitive experiences which prepare them for their future golfing goals” as stated on its website.
“Once I got to my freshman year, I was in more tournaments to get me ready. I really wanted, and still do, to play college golf,” she said excitedly. “My dad said “Let’s put you in tournaments.’”
“Tournament play is so much different – the mindset, the walking, everything.”
“In a prep tournament, you’re usually doing 18 holes in 3 ½ hours,” she said contrasting her high school competitions with 9 holes in the same time frame.
“You have to be focused mentally. When I was younger, I’d get to the 15th hole and think ‘Oh, we’re almost done. All I have to do is hit a few more shots’. Then I’d lose my focus,” she said. “If you had a bad day then the back nine is just really hard.”
Now that she has experience, she understands how important mental focus is to the game.
“For me now, my focus is a lot stronger,” she said. “I’m like “Ok. I have three holes left. I can go par, par, birdie – or par birdie par or I can try and be focused the entire time and putt it in the hole on the last hole.”
Ludwig said the importance of good mental focus is something that you grow into.
“That’s why my dad put me in tournaments. So now I’m confident. But, it was nerve-wracking,” she said. “Well, it still is when stepping up to the first tee.”
She said confidence is a key in a sport that is such skill-based.
“Confidence and growing into the sport really helps,” she said. “Since sophomore year I’ve been playing in the AJGA tour – the American Junior Golf Association – which is played at the college lengths. My scores are typically higher. My sophomore year I wasnt hitting the ball far, but I could make it work. My junior year I didn’t hit the ball as far as I could have. The past year Ive grown and utilized my momentum in my swing so I get more length now.”
Ludwig said last year was really tough for her mentally.
“When I was a junior in those tournaments I would be 200 yards out on a Par 4 and I would think theres no way I could get it to the green.
“That helps me prepare for college golf and utilize my short game to make par. This year I played pretty good because I’ve hit the ball farther,” she said carrying a 2 above par average.
She said there’s at least 800 yard difference in total yards from a high school to college.
“You’re basically adding another two holes although the yards are spread out among all of them,” she said.
She speaks of playing college golf with a sense of passion and duty.
“I just think being on a college team and being successful in college would be cool,
she said. “Not a lot of people go to college to play sports. That’s a something special.”
The best part of golf for her is knowing hitting the ball true.
“Definitely putting that putt in for a birdie or eagle, or hitting the driver solid straight down the middle and it runs. That’s the best feeling ever. I really love my irons. Ever since I was little the irons were the best part of my game,” she said. “Whenever I would see my swing coach, Lane would be hitting and Ill be watching and listening. Lane might hit a good shot and he (Moncel) might say “Wow that looks like Macy!” He just thinks I’m a machine when I have my iron out. I’ve always been good with my irons.”
The worst part is the pressure.
“Whenever I’m under pressure that’s super hard. Every year sectionals hasn’t been for St. Anthony. I think the golf gods hate us. We’ve had such good chances the past two years but we didn’t make it. All of us played bad. Every single one of us played bad but one. Same thing year before. Sectionals just wasn’t for us,” she said.
The help that her dad gave them as in turn reached to the siblings.
“When I was 15 I didn’t have my license. Someone had to bring me to all these lessons 30 miles away in Mattoon,” she said. “Luke would take me and we would go together. Lane would come up and would ask if he could go, so we brought him.”
Then in turn, she’s helped Lane.
“I turned 16, and I could go on my own. I could bring Lane.”
On her relationship with Luke who has had his share of success:
“Luke definitely pushes me. We’re pretty equal,” she said.
All that practice has paid off.
Her freshman year highlight was a 59th placement at state. Her sophomore year she finished third at the Prep Tour Showcase with a 75, and third at the Aurora Rosary Invite with a 73. Last year she placed 3rd at the Alton Marquette Blastoff with a 79, winning the Windsor Invitational with a 76, Regional medalist with a 76, an 84 at sectional to advance to state where she placed 26th. This year, with a truncated schedule due to the coronavirus, she partnered with teammate Ellie Wegman to shoot a 4 under par 32 at the Charleston 9 hole scramble.
“She has a true love of the game of golf, and has worked hard year round to improve her game. Making her not only one of the best players in the area, but also one of the best in the state,” St. Anthony head coach Randy Blake said.
She was expecting better things from not only herself, but also the teammates she refers to as “my girls”.
Then the coronavirus swept through the country and precautions to stop the spread of it eliminated postseason play and a competitive schedule.
“I definitely see where they’re coming from to protect people, but I’ve been looking forward to my senior year my entire life. Last year I thought, I can’t wait for my senior year,” she said. “I’m going to be improved. Our whole team is going to be better than before. We’re not losing anyone(to graduation). To have that taken away is absolutely devastating.
“But I understand COVID is a big deal.”
She notices the abundance of men and the lack of women on the golf course.
“I always get compliments (about her performance). There isn’t as many girls. If you go out to the golf course, there’s a lot of men and boys,” she said. “My golf team, Effingham and T-town girls. It is impressive because we’re girls and we’re out there. We get respect.”
“Everyone embraces me. Everyone thinks it is really cool. Every time I’m with people they ask me about that,” Ludwig said. “I’m in dance too. No one asks me about dance. Dance is just dance. Golf is just the cool thing for girls. Girls still do amazing things, but we don’t hit it as far.”