SYLVANIA, Ohio —

Walking off the ninth hole at the Marathon Classic, Erica Shepherd was more concerned about registering for classes than what her nine hole performance practice round looked like as she made her way into the clubhouse at Highland Meadows Classic on Tuesday afternoon.

Shepherd is just 18 years old from Greenwood, Indiana, a 3-hour and 45-minute drive from Highland Meadows Golf Course, where she will play in this week’s tournament. The two-time USGA Champion is committed to play golf collegiality at Duke University but will first tee-off against world class golfers at the Marathon.

“It is pretty stressful but hopefully I can play well under stress and get that all taken care of,” Shepherd said as she walked off the course with phone (and iPad) in hand. “I can start tomorrow with a fresh mind.”

As a recent high school graduate, Shepherd is used to the stresses of balancing life and school as a student athlete. Of course, only little comparison can be made between the Marathon Classic and prep athletics but she is finding come similarities between this week and the last four years.

“I’ve done public school all four years of high school so I think I have learned how to manage doing school and golf pretty well,” she said honestly. “Obviously professional golf and school is not something you usually have to do. So, we’ll see how it goes.” 

Most 18-year-olds are working summer jobs or swimming in a pool or lake, but not Shepherd. She has been waiting for this moment her entire life and a sponsor’s exemption has gifted her the opportunity.

“It is awesome. I am super grateful to have this opportunity and play somewhat close to home,” she said. “This is a great tournament and I really like the course so I am excited.”

With that being said, she is well aware that there is at least one other teenager at this week’s tournament. One that is playing among the best golf of this week’s competitors.

“I mean Yealimi [Noh] is out here and she is my age. She got like top-10 last week on tour,” she said. “Everyone is pretty young out here so experience is all that I can get.”

Shepherd and most 18-year-olds do have one thing in common; they are starting a new stage of life. In just over a month, she will be moving away from home to Duke University; and with her, among the plethora of things she will take, the experience of this week is near the top of the list.

“Getting experience playing against the best in the world. It is where I want to be in four years,” she said. “It shows me what I need to do to prepare. And be on the right track for it.”