Multiple tour champion Heather Daly-Donofrio enjoys the view from above in her new executive role with the LPGA, but she owes her good fortune to her apprenticeship on the Symetra Tour, which makes its annual trip to the Capital Region this weekend at Capital Hills at Albany.
The Fairfield, Conn., resident is the chief tour operations officer for the LPGA Tour. As such, she oversees just about everything that goes on inside the ropes.
“It’s fantastic to work with the LPGA. It’s just an incredible organization,” said Daly-Donofrio in a telephone interview between tour stops. “The leadership team of the LPGA is a phenomenal group to work with. I have a different perspective now that I’m outside the ropes instead of inside. Overall, I’m very involved with the business of the LPGA Tour, its growth, and where we want to go.
“It’s funny, because I’m lucky,” she noted. “I was able to achieve my dreams inside the ropes and then stay with the LPGA once my career was done. Now, I feel like I’m giving back to the LPGA for everything it gave to me. It’s just a little payback for me. I’ve been fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.”
Local followers of the Symetra Tour, formerly the Futures Tour, will remember the personable Daly-Donofrio, who competed on “the official road to the LPGA Tour,” from 1991 through 1997. She won four times on the Futures Tour and earned her LPGA Tour card.
Once on the LPGA Tour, the 5-foot-1 graduate of Yale won in 2001 and 2004. She received the LPGA’s William and Mousie Powell Award in 2005, and served as president of the LPGA Tour Executive Committee in 2005 and 2006.
While competing on the LPGA Tour, Daly-Donofrio also went back to her alma mater to coach the Yale women’s golf team from 1997 to 2000.
When she reluctantly retired from the LPGA Tour, Daly-Donofrio eventually became director of media relations in the LPGA communications department and is now one of the most powerful people on that tour.
“I was going to play until I was 40, but I was lucky that there were some openings where I felt like I fit in terms of administration,” she said.
“I think it’s been a benefit to me to have a player’s perspective, because the LPGA is a membership-based organization. Everything we do is for the players. It helped me that I have a player’s mentality, and I can relate. I’ve played with a lot of current LPGA players inside the ropes, and that has balanced me out as an executive.”
Daly-Donofrio said her job involves almost every aspect of the LPGA Tour inside the ropes.
“Anything between the ropes in terms of competition, I oversee,” she noted. “Even the agronomy program, the rules and regulations, the priority listing and status of the players for next year. I’m also involved with the rookie development program of both the LPGA Tour and the Symetra Tour. In fact, I’m involved with both the LPGA and the Symetra programs.”
Daly-Donofrio also serves on the Olympic golf (LPGA) committee, as well as the executive committee for the world rankings.
“I like to be busy,” she said “I don’t like to be bored. I keep energized. Having something to do keeps me going.”
Although she is thrilled to be a top executive with the LPGA, Daly-Donofrio appreciates her beginnings.
“I would not be where I am now if not for the Symetra Tour,” she said. “I didn’t have a great college golf career at Yale, because it wasn’t my focus. The Symetra Tour was perfect for me. I wasn’t ready to go straight to the LPGA Tour when I first came out of college. I needed some improvement.
“The Symetra Tour taught me how to play competitive golf, how to deal with the traveling and how to handle the successes and failures. It’s a fabulous training ground for the LPGA, and the top 10 players graduate to the LPGA, so it helps the tour to continue to grow.”
Daly-Donofrio feels lucky to be part of the LPGA at time when it’s thriving.
“There are so many positive things on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “We have the best players in the world. It’s such a diverse group that touches every corner of the world. We have tremendous sponsors, and our numbers have grown substantially. We’re definitely riding some great momentum, and I’m just grateful to be part of it.”