By Jeff Babineau

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Taylor Collins made bogey at the 18th hole, finishing off a round of 77, and started to fist pump, much to the delight of a spirited group of family and friends who joined her on her journey. Collins, an assistant club professional and teacher at Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Country Club, had competed in her first LPGA tournament since 2013, and had enjoyed every second of it. 

Certainly, she learned a few things along the way after shooting 77-77 and missing the cut.

“I learned that I need to play 18 holes more often,” said Taylor, 32, who played several seasons on the Symetra Tour, then walked away from golf after dealing with rheumetoid arthritis that caused her great pain in her joints. “We were only playing nine holes (a day) this week, and 18 was a lot.”

Collins laughed after saying that, adding next time she plays, she won’t be changing putters at the start of the tournament, either. She realized it would be tough to go up against the LPGA stars knowing her preparations might allow 45 minutes a day after lessons, if she is lucky. But she was going to enjoy the ride. Awaiting her with a warm hug when she walked off the 18th green was 95-year-old teaching legend Bob Toski, who has taught Collins , and has known her family for years. 

Collins, a Fort Lauderdale native who once won Golf Channel’s “Big Break Mexico,” has had a great few months. In September, she became the first female to win the South Florida PGA Section Championship. Collins shot 8 under at BallenIsles (East Course), competing on a golf course measuring 81 percent in length to the setup of her male counterparts. She also was surprised recently when she received a call from the PGA of America telling her she was Rolex Women’s PGA Professional of the Year for 2021. 

She played this week on one of two sponsor exemptions that Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio gave out. In her gallery on Friday were several of the students that she teaches at Coral Ridge.

“I took the week off, and everybody has been super-supportive. A lot of them actually came out to watch, students and members,” she said. Can this add something to her teaching, she was asked. 

“I felt like I needed to play really well so that they trusted me with their swings,” Collins said. “I think it was good enough, yeah.”

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