Date: February 12, 2020
Author: John Huggan @ Royal Adelaide

HUGGAN: Granada takes the long way home


“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance”
– Samuel Johnson. (English playwright)

Julieta Granada wrote the first paragraph of her biography when she was 19 years old and a rookie on the 2006 LPGA Tour. When the former US junior champion from Paraguay won the season-ending ADT Championship she pocketed the first-ever $1 million cheque in women’s golf, a tidy little sum that carried her all the way up to fourth place on the money-list.

That’s the good news. Perhaps not so sunny is the fact that her maiden victory on the LPGA circuit remains her only one. Which is not to say that Granada did not came close in the years that followed. She did, most notably at the 2012 Women’s Australian Open, where she was one of five “losers” in the play-off to determine the eventual winner, Jessica Korda.

But more recent times have not been kind to this diminutive and likeable chatterbox, who moved from her native land to Florida along with her mother at the age of 14 in 2001.

“I got into golf through my mum,” says Granada. “She played. And she played because my grandfather played. He was an engineer and worked alongside Americans and British people. They all played golf, so he did too. My mum took me to the course with her. I hung around with the other kids and eventually got into playing. And when I did, I started winning. Which I liked (laughs).”

Sadly, there hasn’t been much to smile about since 2015. That year, Granada foolishly played through a back injury that lingered into the following season. Wrist surgery early in 2017 wrote off most of that year. And by the end of 2018 she had lost her exempt status on the LPGA Tour.

Swallowing her pride, Granada played in a couple of Symetra Tour (the LPGA’s developmental circuit) events early last year. And she did well, well enough to make the decision to stay “down” for the season in an effort to claim a top-10 spot on the money list, a feat that would see her regain full playing privileges on the main tour. Happily, she was successful, pulling up in sixth place.

“After the first couple of events on Symetra I wasn’t planning on staying,” she explains. “I just needed somewhere to play. But I started off so well that the decision was really made for me. I was three-quarters of the way to getting my card back after only four events. So it made sense to keep going.

“That was when it got hard. I actually did get into a few LPGA events. But I decided not to go. More than once I asked myself why I was turning down a $2 million purse to play for $100,000. Plus, I was used to the luxury of the LPGA and the courses. So there was some adjusting to do. But I was fine when I got it in my head that I was there for a reason. I’m very proud of what I achieved. I’m not sure many people would have humbled themselves as I did.”
Indeed, although stepping down a level was in sharp contrast to the “spoiled and entitled” existence — “and the buffets in the player’s lounge” — she had enjoyed for so long, Granada looks back on a year spent driving around North America with an unexpected affection.

“I went there with the right attitude,” she confirms. “It would have been easy to sulk. But I never did. I talked with my psychologist and he told me to treat it as my job. I took it that way. It did shake me a little to spend a year there. But I ended up really enjoying the whole experience.

“My mother and I spent a lot of time in cars. One time we went from Toronto to Sioux Falls in South Dakota, with a stop in Milwaukee to see my coach on the way. That took 16 hours. After Sioux Falls we went to Mount Rushmore to check it out. That was a seven-hour drive. Then we drove another nine hours to Kansas. By the end of the year I was no longer a spoiled, entitled LPGA player living in a bubble. On the Symetra there is no bubble.”

After all that, Granada is predictably excited to be back in the big league, with the prospect of another trip to the Olympic Games if things go well. Four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, she was honoured to carry the Paraguayan flag at the opening ceremony.

“I need to get up in the world rankings to make the Olympic team,” she says. “Making birdies, cuts and money will all help in that regard. Playing well solves every problem. I so want to go back. My first step into the stadium carrying the flag was a real ‘wow’ moment. It was such a thrill and one of the best experiences of my life. I have never been so nervous on a first tee as I was in Rio.”

That is for the future though. For now, Granada has an ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open to play in. And much to be thankful for, not least the lasting benefits that 14-year old $1m cheque brought with it.

“That win is still looking after me,” she says with a smile. “Without that financial security I probably would not have been able to make the comeback. I’m still reaping the benefit. But I’m happy that I will always be remembered as the first to win $1 million in one event. It is something I will never forget. And I’m lucky to have done it. That money has helped me through so many rough times.”

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish”
– John Quincy Adams. (6th president of the United States)