Megan Furtney practically grew up on a golf course. From the time she could walk, Furtney accompanied her parents while they hit the links or went to the driving range at a suburban country club.
Sometimes Furtney would take a few swings with her shortened clubs. Other times she would entertain herself in a sand bunker or a golf cart. Either way, the passion Furtney developed at a young age for the sport motivated her to become one of the best female junior golfers in the Midwest.
Last month, Furtney, a native of South Elgin and a senior at St. Charles North High School, participated in the ANA Junior Inspiration tournament, an invitation-only event for the world’s top 48 junior golfers, who competed for a chance to play in the first LPGA major championship of the season. Furtney shared the lead after two days but ultimately slipped and finished ninth at 2 over par.
Furtney was blown away by the setup of the event, which was held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
“When you’re out there, it’s just surreal because you’re looking around, it’s like what you’ve seen on TV your whole life and now you get to play it,” Furtney said. “It was just such a cool experience.”
The event was even more special for the 18-year-old Duke commit because it was a reflection of how far she had come.
Two years ago, Furtney was in the same place before she lost everything.
Fresh off her first ANA Junior Inspiration appearance, Furtney, who was 16 at the time, was preparing for her upcoming season. She was excited for what the future held.
But it all slipped away from her at a family dinner the Furtneys likely will never forget.
In May 2017, Megan cut the tip of her pinkie off while attempting to scooch her metal chair toward the table.
“It was a complete fluke accident,” Megan’s mother, Stacey, recalled. “It happened so quick … and it was just a long process, a lot of thoughts going through our heads, like, ‘We don’t know what to do, we don’t know what this process will be, we do know [her pinkie is] important in the game of golf.’ ”
The reality of the situation was that Megan might never play golf again — or at least not at the level she was competing at.
“It was a thought that crossed our minds,” Stacey said.
But the Furtneys found comfort in the doctors, who assured them Megan still would be able to grip a club once her finger was fully healed.
After several surgeries, Furtney missed the entire summer. She spent most of her time on the couch watching golf on TV. She longed to swing her clubs.
“The hardest part was really just trying to keep myself in a positive mental state of mind because it was so hard to sit and not be able to compete and watch everybody else play,” Furtney said. “I love competing more than anything in the world, so not being able to compete was hard for me.
“I would just be sitting on the couch, like, ‘I got to get back. I’ve got to go play.’ And not being able to do that and have to comb myself back was difficult.”
As Furtney battled her way through rehab, her biggest challenge was yet to come. After making a name for herself in the golf world, Furtney essentially had to start all over and rebuild her status.
“I was out the whole summer. I actually lost all my status and everything,” Furtney said. “If you looked my name up on rankings, I wouldn’t pop up. And so from that point on, I just tried to take it one event at a time and try to get back to where I was before I got injured.”
Since her accident, Furtney, a two-time Amateur Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-American and three-time AJGA champion, has finished in the top 15 five times. She also has won two events.
“I’ve come a long way,” Furtney said. “I put a lot of time and effort to get back to where I was.”
And Furtney has accomplished all of this while trying to live as normal of a high school life as possible.
In a regular week, Furtney comes home from school at 1:30 p.m. (she has seventh and eighth period off). Then she’ll practice for several hours, playing nine or 18 holes or going to the driving range in the winter. After that, she’ll go home and do homework. She might have some time to hang out with her two younger brothers.
Sleep? That’s for the weak.
There’s no senior slumping for Furtney. In her final semester of high school, she’s taking advanced-placement calculus and Spanish, along with two honors courses and a class called “standard oceanography.” Though she’s traveling to tournaments at least once a month, Furtney has a 5.27 GPA.
She has had to make plenty of sacrifices, including missing junior prom to try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
“I’ve definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices just to be able to get to where I am today and because golf is time-consuming with traveling and things like that,” Furtney said. “You’ll miss school and miss tests, and so there might be some night where my friends might be hanging out, I’ll have to stay home and do some studying or homework, or maybe stay after school to take tests and maybe on weekends I’ll have to practice instead.
“It definitely takes time and dedication, that’s for sure. But I like the balance, I like the challenge of making sure you’re staying strong academically and golf-wise.”
She’s going to prom this year, though she’ll return from a USGA event the Thursday before the Saturday dance next month.
“It’s a bit of a hectic schedule, but I enjoy it,” Furtney said. “I love being busy.”