Amid pro golf’s pandemic pause and subsequent restart, touring veteran Rachel Rohanna is having a cow.
Of the Simmental and Angus breeds, respectively.
One of the game’s unique stories during one of golf’s most atypical years, Rohanna, 29, isn’t simply engaged in swing study as the respective women’s tours return to the course in a COVID culture; rather, the 2010 U.S. Women’s Am medalist and two-time Symetra Tour champion is balancing pandemic play with life as a mom and the lifestyle of living on a working farm in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Rohanna and her husband raise cows (presently about 100) and also own a seasonal butcher business.
With the tens of millions of dollars at stake on the PGA Tour, it’s easy to forget the far more modest sums competed for in the women’s game.
“It’s definitely a need,” says Rohanna of her golf earnings. “The one bad thing about being self-employed is the health insurance, which is ridiculous. But I’ve been pretty fortunate the last few years. In 2018, when I was on my maternity year, I did work at my mom’s travel agency. And the butcher shop is a huge help; we run that from September until April. And, raising the cattle, each year we try to double our herd and we try to weed out the cows that don’t quite fit our profile; so that helps big time, too.”
During the four-plus month layoff from play, Rohanna tried to use the open spaces to her advantage.
“We live on my grandparent’s property, and there’s a 40-acre field where I was able to hit balls. And I worked on my swing a lot in my yard, and used the time to exercise a lot,” she says. “I tried helping out as much as I could on the farm, but raising a toddler is pretty much a full-time job.”
A veteran of 41 career LPGA events (with 10 cuts made) including a pair of U.S. Women’s Open appearances, Rohanna’s restart has presented a continued career balance between the two tours. Through August, she’s teed up two Symetra and two LPGA events apiece since play resumed. Rohanna has a sterling Symetra tour C.V., with Rohanna having made 66/88 career cuts, including capture of the 2017 Symetra Tour Championship.
Days following that win, she’d learn she had won while pregnant. Today, the mother of 2-year-old Gemelia stands as the Symetra Tour’s only mother.
If Rohanna’s pre-pandemic life was a delicate dance of farm, family and golf, getting back to work amid the threat of a deadly global virus is all-out orchestration.
“I’m hesitant to take her on a plane,” says Rohanna of flying with Gemelia. “She doesn’t quite know what germs are yet, so she just touches and licks everything.”
To date, Rohanna has driven, with her family and daughter in tow, to the LPGA’s pair of tournaments in Ohio; she’s also twice flown — once solo, once with her father — to the Symetra’s events in Michigan and Arizona.
“The best thing to ever happen to baggage claim is social distancing,” laughs Rohanna. “But, really, when I’m driving and stopping at rest areas – I feel like that’s worse than getting on a plane, where I know everybody is in the same boat, wearing masks and sanitizing everything.”
While Rohanna is quick to laud the organization skills of each tour (and the supplied Whoop straps to monitor health), placing pencil to scorecard has far proven the simplest piece of returning to the business of golf.
“We have to do a lot of paperwork (in golf’s restarts); that’s been the hardest part actually, as much of the material have to be filled out at least two weeks in advance of an event,” Rohanna explains. “We’ve been asked to download three different phone apps, and I’ve scanned items, faxed paperwork, e-mailed documents. And I’m always triple-checking everything. But the tours have been great with this aspect, and I’m blown away with the tours’ patience and communication, as I’m sure that there are a lot of players who are losing some patience.”
Admin extends to the loopers. In the restart, Rohanna has had her dad caddie for her once, and also had her husband on the bag for an event.
“The paperwork includes finding your caddie and making sure your caddie receives the forms and fills everything out,” Rohanna adds.
COVID-19 testing protocols also have some alter from event to event.
“There are forms for an at-home COVID test; or, in one instance, at the second return event (Marathon LPGA Classic) they tested on-site,” says Rohanna. “And I ended up not playing the Symetra event in Beaumont, Calif., but, for that tournament (IOA Championship), the tour tested the week prior at the event in Arizona.”
All logistics considered, there’s still a broad expectation for players to care for themselves.
“As the tours have explained it, we have to consider ourselves in a bubble,” Rohanna says. “That includes taking tests and, after taking the tests, they don’t want us out and about, shopping or hanging out with people or going to restaurants – things we’d typically do in any other year. And it all makes sense; I haven’t heard many complaints about following all the regulations.”
Through eight years of pro golf between the two tours, veteran savvy has helped Rohanna learn the lessons of the road. Having a travel agent in the family hasn’t hurt, nor has embracing the value of airline points earned via credit card. And while she’s spent ample time over the years – akin to her playing competitors – taking advantage of host housing or staying with family friends, Rohanna has learned the benefits of spending a few more dollars for the comfort of a hotel room.
Whatever the accommodations, every player has more than clubs to carry in the months of pandemic golf. The emotional weight of ensuring health and safety never strays far from the course.
“I’m with my grandparents a lot, and I do get extremely nervous about that,” admits Rohanna. “And my daughter is just two; and while she seems very healthy, maybe she has underlying conditions that I don’t know about. Mostly, my stress comes from being an asymptomatic positive and taking the virus to people that I know.”
Between the turf of the course and the sod of the farm, Rachel Rohanna has one eye on the ball, and the other on the baby.
“I’m lucky that I have my family around me at pretty much all times, but on the road, when I have been alone, it’s been kinda nice to be able to relax alone for a few nights in a hotel room and have a meal without somebody jumping on my lap, as much as I love her,” Rohanna concludes.
“But I’d say after about four days away from my daughter, it does start to get really hard on me.”