I knew I wanted to play professional golf when I was just a little girl. Now that I’m turning that dream into a reality, I’m realizing there are a few things that didn’t quite meet my expectations.

The Dream: My popularity would skyrocket. I imagined myself signing autographs and having a long line of people wanting to be my friend (the kids that bullied me in middle school were at the front)

The Reality: What a lonely life it really is. Sure, I gained a few more Instagram followers than I probably would have if golf wasn’t my career choice, but in chasing a dream like this, your circle really becomes smaller and smaller. I had to sacrifice a lot of Friday nights with friends and the fear of missing out soon became a familiar feeling. Lots of quiet hotel rooms, lots of reading and Netflix shows, lots of podcasts and long drives, lots of dinners alone; but hey, that’s the price to pay for chasing a dream.

The Dream: Cash rules everything around me.

The Reality: How many days in a row can I eat ramen noodles without dying? 

Of course, there are the stars that “make it” immediately when they step out on tour. For most of us, that isn’t the case. For every Justin Thomas, there are a hundred “no-names” chasing him. We spend a lot of time crunching numbers and trying to figure out the cheapest way to get to where we need to be. With entry fees ranging from $500-$1,000 plus lodging, food, and travel, there isn’t much left to spend on luxuries. Sometimes “the dream” looks more like cramming as many people into a hotel room as you can. The struggle bus becomes the snuggle bus.

The Dream: “This will be smooth sailing.”

The Reality: I just shot 6-under and now I’m calling my mom crying on the way home because I still missed the cut. 

You can’t get away with anything. You can’t cut corners. It’s a whole different ball game out here. I once was a big fish in a little pond and now I’m a guppy in the pacific ocean. The grind is real.

To be honest, the dream looked a lot more glamorous than the reality. I still get unsolicited advice from random strangers on the range (pro tip: don’t do this) I still get frustrated and discouraged. People don’t even bow at my feet when I walk into a room. How rude.

It’s not for everyone. But it’s the best job in the world. I get to play the game I love every day. Work doesn’t always feel like work. I’ve learned more about integrity and discipline than I ever thought I would. The only person you’re accountable to out here is yourself. 

Like anything that’s worth it, playing professional golf takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. But, what I’ve gained in return is priceless. I’ve traveled to places I never dreamed of or even knew existed. I have built relationships that will last a lifetime and I have learned lessons that will carry into all other aspects of my life. 

One day I’ll have the courtesy cars and fancy dinners. But for now, I’ll keep chasing.

Kayla Jones

Kayla is a professional golfer on the LPGA Symetra Tour and the Women’s All-Pro Tour. She has played professionally overseas on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour as well. Kayla graduated from Florida State University after playing all 4 years on the golf team there. Go Noles.