Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Christina Carroll returns to The John Shippen, this time fresh off a CAA team championship

SportsChristina Carroll returns to The John Shippen, this time fresh off a CAA team championship

BY DANIEL STEENKAMER
Managing Sports Editor




Christina Carroll has played against the whole gamut of competition as a golfer since she was nine years old. 

When Carroll was a 2019 Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Blue Hen Conference champion and a four-year player at William Penn High School, she was a more experienced golfer by far than many teammates who had picked up the sport one or a few years prior. 

“They were just always in awe of my swing and the shots that I would hit,” Carroll said with a laugh Sunday night while recalling fondly those days at William Penn. 

Conversely, when Carroll competed in the 2023 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational last summer, her first LPGA event, the awestruck role was reversed.

“On the practice range, seeing Lexi Thompson warming up behind me, I have never been so nervous in my life,” Carroll said about the LPGA Tour pro with admiration.

With all her experience, including her 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) team championship on the university’s squad, Carroll now enters this year’s John Shippen National Invitational with the chance to jumpstart her aspiring professional career while an amateur. 

The John Shippen women’s field winner earns an exemption into two LPGA events staged later in June. They are the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and the Dow GLB Invitational, otherwise known as the Dow Championship. 

Carroll returns to Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan after finishing third overall and as the low amateur in last year’s Shippen. It was an extra spot available in the ensuing Dow event that allowed Carroll to make her LPGA debut appearance with partner Bailey Davis as a sponsor invitation team.

Once this year’s Shippen gets underway on Tuesday, Carroll will have the chance to improve upon her 2023 results that featured a finish just four strokes behind champion Paige Crawford. Carroll tied Crawford within the second round while shooting 71 to conclude at +5 total to par. 

“Any prior experience that you have going into a golf tournament definitely helps,” Carroll said. “I would say this year, same as every single tournament, just take it one shot at a time, of course learn from the mistakes that I made last year, too.”

Carroll looks forward to “staying focused in the present” with higher stakes to come at the John Shippen. 

It has been a spring of high achievement for Carroll, which comes as nothing new for the standout who has earned two straight All-CAA second-team selections, adding to accolades that include 2020 William Penn Female Athlete of the Year. 

The greatest prize for Carroll came with the Fightin’ Blue Hens’ CAA title snagged in April. 

Delaware ascended from third to first place on the final day of the tournament to take the hardware and clinch the CAA’s automatic qualifying spot for NCAA regionals in the national championship.

“Winning CAAs was an amazing experience, especially to do it with the team that I had,” Carroll said. “We’re all close. We’re all friends and I love all of them, so being able to win, especially my senior year, was just such a great experience. Having my teammate, [individual champ] Lilia [Henkel], come in clutch on the last hole to make a birdie, then to go in the [individual] playoff and the chip-in, it was insane.”

Carroll, an electrical engineering major and Bear, Delaware native, graduated from the university this spring, paving the way for more time dedicated to honing her craft on the course.

“It’s definitely relieving just being able to focus on golf and pour my all into it, not having school in the background,” Carroll said. “It’s definitely refreshing, but also motivating, too, that I can really grind as much as I want on golf.”

Carroll’s grind continues after Delaware’s conference title, which was the Hens’ third in total and first since 2016 and 2017 wins. 

“I’m glad that I could leave Delaware with a championship, so it’s an honor to be a part of the 2024 CAA women’s champs,” Carroll said.

When John Shippen Invitational action tees off with Carroll in the dozen-player field (one that represents an elite group “expanding Black representation in golf,” the event mission reads), another opportunity to bring Delaware on the map awaits – as does a budding professional career.

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