When the coronavirus pandemic began, Gabrielle Shipley did not want to be isolated.
Living in Florida by herself, the former Grand Valley State national champion and professional golfer quickly traveled to Kentucky where her sister lives, going to the University of Kentucky.
There she has a friend, confidant and practice partner in her sister, Sarah. The sisters have continued to hit the links on a daily basis since they have been open in Kentucky.
It has kept the two players sharp when everything has changed around them.
“We were able to golf,” Gabrielle said. “It has been huge. So many girls are only able to hit into nets or are doing indoor putting things. Just to be able to have the opportunity to hit outside on grass and actually play golf is huge. It will prepare us that much more once it picks up again, which hopefully isn’t too much longer.”
Gabrielle played on the Symetra Tour last year and qualified for the Meijer LPGA Classic on the LPGA Tour last June. During the winters, she lives in the Tampa area and plays in several events in Florida. But only one this year.
“I had the Pro-Am in Mountain Lake, but that was it,” she said. “I caddie in the winter in Tampa at a private club called Old Memorial. That keeps me super busy. It was important that I have the job because last year it was really expensive and I could refill the golf account. I think it helped. You are around different golfers and caddies every day. There are so many different ways to play the game.”
She is constantly reminded of that by Sarah as well.
“When I am in Tampa I am out practicing alone. It is nice we have this sister time together,” Gabrielle said. “We both have different strengths. Hers has been her short game and that really pushes me. We pick each other’s brains to see how we can improve. We have both benefited from this as well.”
Sarah golfs at Kentucky and has also played in some pro events, competing as an amateur.
“We are in this sport because we love it. Thankfully we can still practice and play a little bit. It is a terrible time, of course, but at least we can keep playing,” Sarah said. “We are getting to do all of the fundamental stuff and grind. We are out there all day. That is huge. Practicing and living together has really helped with that. She will pick my brain on putting and I will talk to her about chipping or things she is doing on the range. We really get to approach things we need to get better at din different say. It is nice we have the time to do that.”
Plus the sisters have never had this kind of time together as adults.
“When she is in season and traveling all the time and I am in school, I don’t get to see my family much. It is nice to have someone here every day. We don’t get time like we do right now,” Sarah said.
Gabrielle said that is going to be what she takes away from this time.
“It is nice. Even in the summer, I am not really home. Being able to spend time with her and also have that practice buddy is super helpful,” she said. “We are super close. There are no barriers between us with anything. We have matured and understand life more and can relate to each other a little more.
“That is a huge blessing.”
Now, the challenge is keeping sharp as the times remain uncertain, especially since it takes a toll trying to make a living as a professional golfer.
“It is scary and uncertain because it is our income. I am still sticking with it. It has been an emotional roller coaster. I was kind of to the point that I felt like I would be done soon. It was hard to find joy with it last fall,” she said. “Having this caddy job helped take my mind off of it, but kept me close to the game.”
And close to her sister.
— Contact Sports Editor Dan D'Addona at Dan.D'Addona@hollandsentinel.com or 616-546-4276. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.