From the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society to the LPGA? Former NCAA champion is one step closer
This NCAA champion turned Cambridge grad may be the most well-rounded professional in golf.
Is Virginia Elena Carta the most well-rounded professional in golf? The NCAA champion turned Cambridge grad certainly makes a strong case after taking another big step toward earning an LPGA card.
Qualifying School is a grueling 288-hole grind. Carta advanced through the second stage on the number and heads home to Italy on Tuesday to prepare for the upcoming eight-round Q-Series on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama in December.
School happens to be where Carta excels, and she’s already a member of one of the oldest golfing societies in the world, having survived and thrived in an academic gauntlet to become part of The Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society, known simply as The Society.
Last September, Carta became the fourth woman to ever compete in the University Golf Match (aka the Varsity Match) between Oxford and Cambridge, which dates back to 1878 and is the oldest amateur golf event in the world.
Last year’s Varsity Match was held at Muirfield, shortly after the historic club welcomed its first female members. In 2022, Muirfield will host the AIG Women’s British Open for the first time.
Should the affable Carta qualify, she knows it can’t possibly be set up any tougher than the Varsity Match, when she played the tips, as she did in each time she competed for the Cambridge Blues Team.
The weekend competitions featured 36-hole competitions held over the best courses in the United Kingdom, including Royal Porthcawl, Royal St. George’s, Rye, Sunningdale and the Old course. The Blues Team took on the best members of each club, and Carta had a blast wearing out her driver and 3-wood while enjoying stimulating conversation.
When asked if friends thought she was crazy to delay a professional golf career to pursue another degree, Carta said she heard the opposite: “You are crazy to give up your academics and your job to actually pursue the LPGA.”
Born in Milan on Christmas Eve and named after author Virginia Woolf, Carta graduated from Cambridge with a “Mphil” in Environmental Policy (which is equivalent to a Masters in the U.S.). She also earned a degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Duke, where she won the NCAA individual title as a freshman in 2016 and then helped Duke win a team title as a senior in 2019. She was also a finalist at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur, won by Eun-jeong Seong.
When the opportunity to study at Cambridge presented itself, Carta knew her LPGA dream would have to wait.
“It is tough, I’m not gonna lie, she said of her time at Cambridge. “It is tough to still play and practice and be focused on golf while pursuing high-level academics.”
Upon graduation from Cambridge, Carta worked as a consultant at Domino Printing Sciences through July. The money she earned there got her professional career off the ground. Carta made her pro debut on home soil in May at the Ladies Italian Open, where she held the spotlight and missed the cut.
“The fact that I had a rough start was great for me,” she said, “because it just woke me up and made me realize that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be.”
A tie for fifth at the Swiss Open and a share of sixth at the French Open in September, however, gave Carta a boost of confidence heading into Stage II.
Getting her game back in order, however, wasn’t the only necessity. Carta said without a sponsorship from Lineage Logistics, she would’ve had to stop playing.
At Q-School, where Carta continued her new tradition of not looking at leaderboards (even after the round on her phone), she survived a gnarly double-bogey on a par-5 she tried to reach in two on Sunday that included more tops and chunks than are fit for print.
But she then nearly holed-out for eagle on the next hole and kept it together enough coming down the stretch to finish 3 under in Venice, Florida, joining current Duke player Gina Kim (T-19) as two of the 47 players to advance.
“It was tough; it was intense; it doesn’t matter,” said a smiling Carta. “I’m just happy we got it done.”
Though Carta left Duke more than two years ago, her legacy there lives on in the Birdies For Babies program she started in 2018. The year-round fund-raising effort benefits the hospital’s Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care units and to date has raised nearly $70,000 between the men’s and women’s Blue Devil golf teams.
“What more could you hope for in a person than for her to be academic, giving and also a successful athlete?” Duke coach Dan Brooks once asked. “It’s pretty special.”
The very definition of doing it all.