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For some golfers, the dream doesn’t always stay the same. 

The dream, that is, of competing on the biggest tours in the world and winning the biggest tournaments, which will only ever be achieved by a select number of superstars.

So when a player has those achievements well within their grasp but still decides to take a completely different route, it’s important to take note.

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Rachel Heck is one of the exceptions.

In a moving first-person story for No Laying Up, Heck, one of the most decorated female amateur players in history, has explained why she has turned her back on a career in the professional game.

The former world No.3 amateur, who became the first woman in Stanford golf history to win an individual NCAA title, will soon focus on a career in private equity after time as an Air Force lieutenant.

“It’s hard to imagine how it will feel to put my clubs away at the end of the season,” Heck said in the poignant letter. “How will it feel to stand over my last putt? How will I feel waving back to my teammates one last time?

“I still look forward to playing amateur events and, hopefully, many more USGA Championships. However, it will be undeniably different. Taking a step away from the game that has given me everything has been a gut-wrenching decision.”

Heck first emerged onto the wider public consciousness back in 2017 when she made the cut at the U.S Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. But her glittering amateur career has been hampered by a back injury and time on the sidelines made Heck reflect on what she really wanted in life.

“Even when I was able to start playing again, I knew something was not right,” she said. I did not recognise myself anymore, on or off the course. All my joy was gone, and all my smiles were fake.

“That fall, I became severely depressed. In that period of darkness, I realised I needed something more than golf, and I vowed that I would find it. I told my parents I wanted, perhaps, to try Air Force ROTC. They told me I was crazy. It would be simply impossible to keep up with Stanford academics, Division I golf, a social life, and the military.”

Heck has eight collegiate wins at Stanford University and has competed in two Curtis Cups. She is an ex-college teammate of Rose Zhang, who is a breakthrough star on the LPGA Tour star.

But mounting injury problems caused her to miss six months of action last year as she had a rib removed during surgery to relieve the pain from thoracic outlet syndrome, where nerves or blood vessels are compressed.

“I was strongly considering attributing my decision to my injuries,” Heck admitted. “It is true that even if I wanted to, I do not know if my body would hold up on tour. But frankly, after a couple of years of painful deliberation, I have come to realise that I do not want to play professional golf. I do not want a life on the road and in the public eye.

“I no longer dream of the U.S. Open trophies and the Hall of Fame. And I realise now that these dreams were never what my dad intended when he first put a club in my hand. He pushed me when I was young so that I could find myself in the position I am right now: Stepping into the future equipped with the skills to tackle any challenge and the courage to pave my own path.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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