GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Given how hectic her schedule has been the last two weeks, Joanna Coe might feel more relief than excitement Friday when she tees off at the Bay Course of Seaview Resort for her first time as a professional.
The 21-year-old Coe, of Mays Landing, received a sponsor's exemption from the ShopRite LPGA Classic to begin her pro career close to home. It will be the latest in a string of exciting events for her, starting with her graduation last month from Rollins College and then her earning a berth for the U.S. Women's Open in qualifying.
In the meantime, there have been interviews and calls of encouragement from family and friends. But as she waits for her 2:12 p.m. starting time Friday off the 10th tee at the Bay Course, she is staying cool and composed.
"I've been pretty calm all week," Coe said. "I think as the moment gets a little closer that might change. It might not hit me until the tournament starts when I walk to the tee on Friday. But I don't think I'm going to get too anxious. People have talked to me a lot about Friday, but I've felt the same all week."
Coe, a graduate of Oakcrest High School, is a veteran of the Bay Course, having played there dozens of times. She won Monday qualifying for the ShopRite last year, although she missed the 36-hole cut in the tournament.
However, when she walks out to compete Friday, she knows it's a different ball game.
"I don't really think I have an advantage," said Coe, the 2008 NCAA Division II champion. "I'm the new girl at this event. Just because I've played there a million times doesn't mean I'll shoot a 62. I'm going to try to execute every shot to the best of my ability, and hopefully, the putts will drop."
Still, it's a moment Coe eagerly has awaited. The timing couldn't be better.
"I'm prepared physically and mentally," she said. "I don't think I was ready earlier to drop out and turn pro. I enjoyed all four years of my college career, and now I think I'm ready. I understand better what I need to do. If I didn't try this, I know I'd regret it for the rest of my life. I'll give it a chance for a few years and see how it works out."
Coe received a huge shot of confidence on May 23 when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open - coming up next month at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. - by shooting a 71 on her second 18 of the day at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
"I pretty much knew what I needed to do going into the afternoon," she said. "If I went under par I knew I'd have a pretty good shot. The greens were very fast, like ice and with slopes. But to be able to do what I needed to do to qualify, that was such a confidence boost."
Since the qualifier, she has been working with her instructor, Bruce Chelucci of Blue Heron Pines, "to make sure I'm sharp with my game and to make sure my putting stroke feels comfortable," she said.
"We haven't changed anything, but he wants to make sure I have a good feeling over the ball," she said.
So all is in readiness for Coe. She'll definitely have a good-size rooting section as she handles the tricky Bay Course with its firm greens and ball-gobbling fescue. She can't wait.
"I think they'll see me smiling a lot walking down the fairway," she said. "When I'm smiling, I play good golf."