Lyberty Anderson: UNCW's champion golfer finds success off the course ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)

Lyberty Anderson: UNCW's champion golfer finds success off the course ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)
CAA Women's Golf champ Lyberty Anderson of UNCW is the guest this week on the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast.
You can check out past episodes of the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast with guests including Charlie Daniels, MacKenzie Gore, Hayley Lovitt and Mayor Bill Saffo. Just click the links inside this story.
You can check out past episodes of the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast with guests including Charlie Daniels, MacKenzie Gore, Hayley Lovitt and Mayor Bill Saffo. Just click the links inside this story.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Lyberty Anderson has a tough time remembering the days without the game of golf. UNC Wilmington's two-time CAA Women's Golf Champion says her father put a sawed-off club in her hands near the family's home in Chesterfield, Virginia when she was five-years-old. She played in her first tournament the following year. That's when the winning began.

"I begged him when I was five to take me with him, because I wanted to know what he was doing," Lyberty says about the first time she went along with her Father to a golf course. "So that was when he took me and I was like 'I really like this, can we keep doing it?' Then I played in my first tournament when I was six."

Success came quickly and often for the young lady with a passion for golf. But the game of life was not as easy off the course when Lyberty began playing with the University of Virginia Women's Golf team. There was success at the college level. As a freshman, she helped the Cavaliers win the school's first ACC Women's Golf Tournament Championship. But the anguish outweighed the triumphs.

"It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when in those two years, because those two years were really difficult for me," Lyberty says about her freshman and sophomore seasons at UVA. "I was just really unhappy, really in a bad mental state, struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. I just didn't want to be where I was, and so that was really hard to be in such a beautiful place like Charlottesville, and be close to home, and still feel that way."

Lyberty had spent her younger years splitting time between her parents' businesses and the golf course. Her mother Christle owns and operates a cleaning service, and dad Wayne owns a collision center. She worked washing and prepping the cars for customers to pick up, and the game of golf became something Dad and daughter shared away from work.

The accomplishments of the young lady began to circulate in Virginia's junior golf circuit.  Lyberty broke par for the first time at the age of 10. When she was 11, she shot 69 at Pinehurst #5 course during the US World Kids Tournament on the way to a fifth-place finish. Lyberty qualified for the World cup, a Ryder Cup format pitting top US junior golfers against players from around the world. Lyberty was named the Junior Player of the Year in 2011 & 2012 by the Virginia State Golf Association, and the co-Women's Golfer of the Year in 2013.

Controversy found Lyberty in 2012, after she won the Virginia High School League Boys' 3A championship at Red Wing Lake Golf Course in Virginia Beach, becoming only the second female in state history to do it. Some of the players and coaches questioned Lyberty playing a shorter course, despite the VHSL rule that governs where she played. Her victory even drew criticism from reporters. Lyberty talks about it at 31:30 of the podcast.

"People were tweeting at me, harassing me on social media and things like that," she remembers. "I really just let it go, because I was like 'these people are so insecure and not confident about their abilities' and things like that. I get how they might see that it's not fair just because I do hit it so far, but I'm still a female. If they had made me step back, I still am confident to this day that I would have beat each and every male in that field. With a little bit of help from my parents, I was able to rationalize all those thoughts and let it go."

During her run of successful junior golf, Lyberty had committed to playing for University of Virginia at the age of 15. Looking back now, she says it was a premature decision. Her arrival in Charlottesville, while it did come with some success as a golfer, led to deep depression, unhappiness and thoughts of suicide.

"There were just a lot of things that weren't really flowing nicely as far as team dynamic and coaching dynamic and things like that," she says. "Just the overall dynamic of the university wasn't necessarily where I was meant to be. I really didn't fit in there."

During that time, Lyberty got a call from UNC Wilmington Women's Golf Head Coach Cindy Ho. She says the conversation centered around Lyberty the person, not necessarily Lyberty the golfer. You'll hear about it at 16:00 of the podcast.

"I ended up here just because she felt the need to call me and just ask about if I wanted to transfer or if I wanted to quit golf all in all," Lyberty says. That was a really hard decision for me because when I decided to leave (University of) Virginia I was quitting golf. I quit the golf team, I was going to go to VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) full-time and get a business degree. So, I wasn't even going to play gold at that point. Then Cindy called me and I thought about it, talked to my parents about it. I reflected a lot about what happened the past two years at Virginia and was like 'I think this could be something that could really be beneficial to me as a person, not as a golfer'."

In her first season with the Seahawks, Lyberty earned first-team all-CAA honors, and won her first individual CAA championship. More importantly, with the help of therapy, family and friends, Lyberty's life off the course was much happier. A car crash in the summer of 2017 resulted in back injuries that kept Lyberty away from golf clubs for months. After getting clearance to return, she suffered a wrist injury that complicated her recovery. But with a new attitude, Lyberty saw something positive come from the physical troubles.

"I wouldn't say that I'm thankful that I got into a car accident, but it did help me kind of take a step back," she says of the rehabilitation time away from golf. "I've been playing this game since I was five. It does take a physical toll on your body, especially at the D1 level, and you're working out and lifting weights. You're doing a lot of things your body is not used to. It really gave me the opportunity to listen to my body and figure out what it's telling me."

When Lyberty returned during her senior season, she won two events (CAA Championship and Kiawah Island Classic) and was the unanimous pick of the league's coaches as CAA Player of the Year. It was not easy, either. Lyberty came from three strokes back in the final nine holes. She talks about the tournament at the beginning of the podcast. 

"There were three of us in contention, and we were all playing together," she says of the final round. "They both bogeyed, and I bogeyed, and I knew that I wasn't out of it at that point. Both of them lacked the experience that I had. That really helped, winning a previous CAA championship, and also winning a regular season event this semester, too."

Lyberty is now looking ahead to life after golf with her fiancée Jessica Blanton and her two pets. In an interview in 2012, Lyberty said she wanted to play professionally and transition to become a golf coach. But the dominoes have fallen in a different direction for Lyberty Anderson. Golf is not a priority any longer. She wants the world to know there is more to Lyberty than swinging a club and sending a ball toward a cup.

"I can't thank Cindy enough for being there when I needed that change of scenery, because had I not got that phone call from her, I wouldn't be sitting here with you today," she says. "I'm grateful for everything that's happened in the last two years here in Wilmington, meeting my fiancée. Had I not moved here, a lot of things wouldn't have happened."

Our conversation covered many other issues, including the message behind Lyberty's tattoos and her in-depth dissection of my golf swing. It is a fun interview with an engaging young lady who has now found success off the golf course. I think you will enjoy it.

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