By Ken MacLeod
Kaitlin Milligan recently smacked a drive 335 yards in a practice round.
Not a typo.
Yes, crushing a ball prodigious distances has never been an issue for the 2021 University of Oklahoma graduate now pursuing a career in professional golf. Putting and chipping at an LPGA level, those have been goals only now pursued in earnest.
“That’s where all the money is made,” Milligan said. “I wish someone had told me that a lot earlier. But they are coming along.”
Milligan, who this week was named the winner of the 2021 Everett Dobson Award by the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame, will now have an extra $5,000 to help her pursue her dreams of playing on the LPGA Tour. She breezed past First Stage qualifying in August and second stage is scheduled in late October.
The Everett Dobson Award is named for the Oklahoma City businessman, philanthropist and avid golfer and champion of the game who provided the initial impetus and funding to start the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. It is designed to help a deserving Oklahoma golfer and college graduate get started in their career, whether golf or other.
It could not be more timely for Milligan, who recently paid for entry fees to the first and second stages of LPGA qualifying plus events on the Women’s All Pro Tour and the Symetra Tour. She has a link on her Twitter account to a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for her run at the LPGA.
“This will be a great help,” Milligan said. “I also deeply honored and grateful for this award. I’ve looked at the names of those who won it previously and appreciate the hard work and dedication they’ve put in. I really appreciate being able to follow them.”
Milligan, who grew up in Norman playing Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour, WOGA and high school events before starring at OU, has recently moved to Peoria, Ariz., to prepare for her run at professional golf.
As a senior at OU, she had surgery last November to remove a cyst in her right hand and played pain free golf in the spring for the first time in recent years. She also has been working with putting guru Bruce Rearick of Indianapolis, the owner of Burnt Edges Consulting, offering its students a better understanding of the science and art of putting.
“He’s amazing,” Milligan said. “He fixed my grip and ball position and that was it, I started putting so much better.”
One of the highlights of Milligan’s career to date was playing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring, in which she made the cut and was able to play the final round at Augusta National, finishing 19th.
She was so enraptured she can scarcely remember any of the shots she hit in her round of 76, except for an approach shot on 17 that she stuffed tight for her lone birdie. She does remember seeing Jason Day on the practice range and thinking that was “the coolest thing ever.” Then as she holed a long putt for par on 18, she heard a voice say “great up and down.”
“I looked over and it was Bubba Watson,” Milligan said. “I looked ahead, then back, and then went over to introduce myself. Pretty soon they were getting mad at me because I was supposed to be signing my scorecard.
“The entire experience was just unbelievable, like a dream. The greens are insane. You almost forget you’re playing golf, which may have been a good thing.”
Milligan is the second consecutive female golfer from OU to win the award, joining 2020 recipient Sydney Youngblood.
“Congratulations to Kaitlin,” said Lew Erickson, chairman of the selection committee for the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. “She’s had a great junior and collegiate career, was an excellent student at OU (4.0 PGA) and we wish her the best as she continues her golfing career.”
Previous winners of the award are
2016: Jordan Niebrugge, Oklahoma State University
2017: Drew Posada, Oklahoma Baptist University
2018: Rylee Reinertson, University of Oklahoma
2019: Elizabeth Freeman, Oklahoma Christian University
2020: Sydney Youngblood, University of Oklahoma
Milligan was honored at the 2021 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame Induction Dinner Nov. 21 at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, along with 2021 inductees Scott Verplank, David Edwards, Danny Edwards, Art Proctor and Floyd Farley.