Bullied as a child, requiring a fundraiser just to enter LPGA Tour Qualifying School, the former University of Arizona star Haley Moore emerged as an inspirational story during the 144-hole finals marathon earlier this month.
Just moments after she tapped in for par on the 18th hole at Pinehurst No. 9 to tie for 11th, she had a tear in her eye, swimming in joy after accomplishing her goal and earning a LPGA Tour card for the 2020 season. Her caddie, John Chance, put his arm around her and said: “Welcome to the LPGA Tour.”
They’ll start there in Florida and share a new journey together.
“I’m excited, looking forward to traveling and seeing what it’s all about,” said Chance, who has never caddied on any professional tour.
The duo became a team last spring when Chance, an Augusta National Golf Club caddie since 2002, landed her bag for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. They clicked from the outset in the indescribable, somewhat mystical, metaphysical manner that frames the best player-caddie relationships. The powerful and super-talented Moore carried a reputation for being hard on herself after poor shots or holes, however, with Chance on the bag and and an eye on a pro career, she entered a realm of calmness at the ANWA, tying for seventh against the strongest field in women’s amateur golf.
Chance and Moore remained in regular contact through the end of Moore’s career at Arizona, which ended in late May at the NCAA Championships in Arkansas. Moore, of course, was the Wildcats’ hero in 2018, sinking the winning birdie to propel her team to the national title.
Moore raised more than $30,000 through a GoFundMe drive to pay her entry fee and expenses for LPGA Tour Q-School. She made it through first stage easily in August and her mom, Michele, contacted Chance prior to second stage and asked if he’d be interested in working for Haley in Venice, Fla. where 185 golfers were battling to finish in the low 30 and ties.
Moore shot 69 in the final round to advance on the number. That clutch performance confirmed what Chance had heard and seen. She’s a fearless player, equally willing to fire at a flag with a 5-iron or a pitching wedge.
Chance lacks experience on the pro tours, but possesses knowledge about the game. He graduated from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with degrees in turf management and professional golf management. He started caddying at Augusta National, intending to eventually shift over to the course maintenance side but quickly changed course, opting to use his skills to shepherd golfers around one of the golf world’s iconic locations.
And he understands that golf, at the highest level, requires a pro to not only manage the course but manage their emotions. It’s not the good shots that separates the winners from the cut missers, necessarily. It’s their measure of resilience and how they handle the bad shots or stretches.
“The way she’s progressed with her mental toughness has been impressive,” Chance said. “She was able to let it go, put it away and move on to the next shot.”
Chance and Moore developed a routine and rapport, working together on club selection and green reading.
Before they left Florida, Chance mentioned to Moore she might want to practice around the greens in Pinehurst with her 60 degree wedge, a club she primarily used from bunkers.
“She likes using her 56 degree for everything but bunker shots,” Chance said. “But it’s a little different playing (in the Southeast) than playing out west. Playing out of this Bermuda this time of year especially when it can get a little patchy, you might end up with a thick lie or it might end up like hitting out of a fairway. With the 56 it wasn’t always checking up quite as much as we needed. So I said, ‘let’s just try the 60’ … get in Pinehurst and start working on some shots where you land them a little higher and a little softer instead of trying to get spin on everything.’”
Those softer shots were a valuable tool as she attacked Courses No. 6 and No. 9 at the famed resort over a two-week stretch where 45 golfers earned LPGA status.
Entering the final round, with 126 holes behind them, Moore and Chance were in excellent shape, tied for seventh.
“Let’s go finish the drill,” Chance told Moore before the round. “But we’re just going to play a round of golf. That’s all we need to know is just play a round of golf. We don’t need to do anything fancy.”
Their start was a disaster – 4 over through six holes – which left them well inside the cutline but created anxious moments walking down the tree-lined fairways.
Chance kept the mood light, chatting with Moore about sports or where they might eat dinner later, and during that final round, reassured her they were still on the path toward LPGA playing status.
“She can be a little quiet at times,” Chance said. “For the most part we can have a conversation about anything. It doesn’t matter.”
A birdie on No. 10 relieved pressure and Moore cruised home, easily securing her spot as one of 19 rookies for the 2020 season.
Chance plans to start the season with her in Florida and head to the West Coast for two events but can’t make a full-time commitment because he’s a single father to 11-year-old John-Garrett Chance and doesn’t want to spend that much time away from him during the school year.
“The plan is to work those couple of events until he gets out of school,” Chance said. “Then once summertime comes around I can go full-time, let him travel with me some, he can hang with his mom (who lives near Athens, Ga.) some, he can spend a few weeks with my parents and can stay with friends of mine who have kids his age.”
Chance is looking forward to the journey. The Georgia native has never been west of Texas and wants to see and feel the game at the highest level. Moore’s game, blessed with power and touch, has drawn comparisons to the great Laura Davies. She’s certain to attract a gallery as she aims to build off a solid run through qualifying and career in professional golf.