Whanganui golf prodigy Tara Raj has taken the next step in her sporting journey, signing a letter of intent with American college Sacramento State.
The 17-year-old was scheduled to visit America earlier in the year to have a look at potential schools, but Covid-19 quickly put that idea on the back burner.
"I had my flights and everything booked. The day before I was meant to leave all the borders got shut down so that was a bit tricky."
Raj ultimately chose Sacramento State because of the connection she made with women's head coach Daniel Sutherland, a 17-year PGA tour veteran.
"That really helped me choose that school," she said.
Raj, who is looking to study journalism or business at university, will spend the next 10 months fine-tuning her game before she flies to the United States in August 2021.
"I'll be playing heaps of tournaments. I will still be under 19 so I can still play all the junior tournaments in New Zealand as well which will be good.
"Hopefully I'll get overseas, possibly to Australia, or if I get the chance to go over to America I will. But at the moment staying in New Zealand is the best option for me."
She said she sees this route as the first step towards her eventual dream - becoming a full-time professional.
"That's the goal. To get on to the LPGA has always been the goal. It's a good pathway going through college to get there. I'll be playing all the tournaments I would be wanting to play even if I didn't go to college.
"It makes my parents happy that I'm getting an education too."
Raj's next tournament is in early December in Auckland, where she will look to avenge a 2019 finals loss with her Whanganui/Manawatu side in the New Zealand Women's Interprovincial Tournament.