The pursuit of success in professional golf can be a lonely one, filled with challenges and frustrations but also with the hope that a breakthrough is lurking somewhere around the corner.
Emily Gimpel, a Mount St. Joseph's Academy graduate from Lafayette Hill, prefers to look at the latter possibility, remaining optimistic that her dream of competing on the LPGA Tour will happen with the kind of perseverance and work ethic that has gotten her this far.
Gimpel, 25, who turned pro in 2014 after graduating from the University of Maryland, will continue her quest this week at the Valley Forge Invitational, a first-year Symetra Tour event to be played at Raven's Claw Golf Club in Limerick Township. She will compete on a sponsor's invitation.
"It's definitely always been my dream," Gimpel said Tuesday during a break from practice. "But I'd say getting there has been kind of a gradual journey. I was never the best from age 10 playing in national tournaments or things like that. I just kind of followed the natural progression and trusted the process.
"I am now just trying to keep getting better every year and chasing that dream. But it's definitely been a challenging journey for sure."
That it has. In her fourth year on the Symetra Tour, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA, Gimpel has yet to make a cut in 21 events. While she has status on the tour after making it to the second stage of the LPGA's qualifying tournament last year, her priority number is 270.
The maximum number of entries in a Symetra Tour event is 144. The Valley Forge Invitational, a 54-hole event that runs from Thursday through Saturday, will feature 132 players.
"Like with any journey, there are always frustrations," Gimpel said. "I think just when you think you should be one place and you're at another place with your game, it can be really tough to kind of stay positive and keep trusting the process. But it's staying grounded in my faith, and my family's support has been key in reminding me that I'm here for a reason and to keep trusting what I'm doing."
John Gimpel introduced his daughter to the game when she was 4 at his home course at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, and he's proud of how she has handled the trials she has faced.
"It's keeping that drive and going out to practice," he said. "What's your drive to really get out there and practice when it's 90 degrees, or when it's cold and rainy? That's where the challenges come in, and that's where Emily has been amazing. Her work ethic and her continued drive and passion to continue to get better, continue to compete, has really been fun to watch."
Emily Gimpel helped lead Mount St. Joseph's to PIAA state team titles in 2006 and 2007. She won the 2010 Pennsylvania State Women's Golf Association's junior championship and the 2013 Philadelphia Women's Match Play title. She was a three-time All-ACC Academic Team selection at Maryland.
She said "you always have to feel" that a breakthrough is coming. She is encouraged by the results she has seen with John Bierkan, the teaching pro at Aronimink Golf Club who became her swing instructor last November.
"We kind of reworked my backswing, trying to be a little more athletic and hit the ball a little farther," she said. "Seeing the changes has been really positive. It's taken a little bit of time to transition into tournament play but I'm really excited about the changes."
She'll get to do that this week at Raven's Claw, which she called "a really fun course."