Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club golf teacher Cindy Wulf always has been a natural when it comes to sports.
Her father, Ray, was a baseball player who was scouted by the New York Yankees, and he got her involved in competitive athletics when she was young. She started playing soccer and fast-pitch softball at age 6, became the first person to play four varsity sports in one year at her high school in Florida and received a full scholarship for cross-country and track at the University of South Florida.
So as sickening as it might seem to the typical golf junkie hoping that a new graphite shaft can cure that banana slice, Wulf had no problem picking up golf at age 20. The fourth time she played 18 holes, she shot 93. She broke into the 80s within six months. And after just a year, she was consistently shooting in the 70s.
Weekend hackers, feel free to scream.
"I had the natural ability from my dad, and I excelled pretty much in all the sports I did," said Wulf, 33. "People were a little shocked at how quickly I progressed."
Wulf hadn't even been interested in the sport until she picked up a job at Royal Oak Country Club in Titusville, Fla., to make some extra money between her sophomore and junior years of college.
"My dad always wanted me to get into golf, but growing up I thought it was a boring sport," Wulf said. "When I started working at the course, I still wasn't interested. But all these people would be there at 6 a.m., and then, Florida has thunderstorms at about 3 in the afternoon, and golfers would come in and huddle and wait. I thought, 'Why are they so crazy about this game?' "
To find out, Wulf started hitting some balls in her free time. As is the case with so many golfers, she was hooked immediately.
She joined the golf team at school, then stayed an extra semester to have more time on the team. After graduation, she turned pro and began playing on the Futures Tour, which is to the LPGA Tour what the Nationwide Tour is to the PGA Tour -- a developmental tour, the minor leagues, essentially.
Wulf played on the tour for about five years, making enough cuts and winning enough prize money to keep her afloat, and improved dramatically along the way.
But the life of a pro golfer -- especially one on a lower-tier tour -- is tough and expensive. Players must pay for their lodging, food and travel. Wulf estimated that playing in 20 tournaments could cost approximately $30,000.
After five years, with credit cards maxed out and her bank account running on empty, Wulf decided she needed something a bit more stable. So she moved to the Washington area and began teaching at Raspberry Falls."It was a good balance for me," she said. "I was able to pay bills, and it funded some tournaments for me."
In 2002, Wulf went to LPGA qualifying school and missed making the tour by two strokes. In 2003, with 120 students, teaching consumed nearly all of her time. But the desire to play professionally still burned within her. And it wasn't hard for her students to tell.
"If you've ever seen her swing, she's got a swing like Annika Sorenstam," said student Cari Sisserson. "So the natural question is, 'Have you ever been on tour?' And she said yes, so the next question is, 'What happened?' . . . We all saw something very special in her and just thought she needed a break."
To help Wulf realize her dream of making it as a professional, a group of her students, including Sisserson, Carol Zach, Andrea Sims and Teena Clayton, put together a benefit tournament at Raspberry Falls. Held on Sunday, the tournament attracted about 60 players and raised approximately $12,000.
"The tournament was just awesome," Wulf said. "It was just heart-warming that they put this together for me."
Wulf will use the money raised in the tournament to help her with another shot at the pros. This winter she will head to Florida to train, and then she'll join the Futures Tour in March with hopes of reaching the LPGA.
The money raised "will give me a big cushion for the first half of the season, more than I've ever had," Wulf said. "If I'm winning money, that will keep me going for the next half of the season."