Madeleine Sheils knew she was going to need more than an outstanding swing to live her dream as a professional golfer.
She needed a way to pay the bills.
Time to adapt and improve. And build a step-by-step path to the big time that better reflected her history than a cold-turkey plunge into LPGA Tour life.
She spent last year formulating those plans. Now she's executing them - and so far, smoothly.
The 23-year-old Bishop Kelly High graduate tied for ninth Sunday in her Symetra Tour debut. The tour is the women's equivalent of the Web.com Tour, with the top 10 money-winners advancing to the LPGA Tour.
Sheils also won her pro debut earlier this year, in an event on the Arizona-based Cactus Tour, and tied for eighth in her second Cactus event.
"I have excitement-type nerves, but I'm not scared," Sheils said last week, before the Symetra's VisitMesa.com Gateway Classic in Mesa, Ariz. "I think my game stacks up really well against most of these girls. And I understand it
might not happen in the first week. It might not happen in the next tournament. But I really believe over the long term I'm going to be successful on this tour."
Some of that confidence stems from her planning.
Sheils, unlike many players in her situation in men's and women's golf, doesn't have to fret about money. She met with her father, Max Sheils, and some longtime supporters last summer and devised a plan to sell 35 shares in Madeleine Sheils, LLC (fans can follow her online at madeleinesheils.com). The money raised - the family declined to reveal the specific amount - will cover Sheils' living and travel expenses for four seasons of pro golf.
The investors receive a share of her winnings and could make a profit if she succeeds on the LPGA Tour.
"I'm really, really fortunate," Sheils said. " It's making it so I don't have to get a job. I can focus my energy 100 percent on golf."
The family has sold or secured commitments for 31 shares. They're split among about 40 people.
Max calls the early investors "the founding fathers" - those who've known his daughter since she was one of Boise's best junior golfers and won the 2007 Big "I" Junior Classic. But about half the investors, he said, didn't know the family.
"It's actually more of a heartstring than a purse-string (investment)," Max said. "The people who are backing Maddie aren't doing this for a big money return. They are doing it because they're supporting a local kid who wants to make good."
Still, Sheils hopes to make those investments pay off. She also likes the idea of having a strong fan base back home.
"They literally have a stake in me, which is cool," she said. "Everybody has been really wonderful about it so far. The investment certainly wasn't a gift. I seriously hope to provide a return to these people, but they know it's incredibly, incredibly difficult, and not a lot of people make it."
The investment structure gives Sheils a comfortable four-year window to chase the LPGA. In a similar timeframe, she developed into one of the top golfers in University of Nebraska history and gained the confidence to pursue pro golf.
Since she can afford patience, she decided last year to skip the third and final stage of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament and take a spot on the Symetra Tour. The third stage would have interfered with her finals at Nebraska - she graduated in December - and practice was difficult in the fall weather.
"I felt like I'd prefer to have a year on the Symetra Tour to get used to tour life," she said. "I wanted to work my way up slowly.
" There's no point in going out and destroying my confidence from the get-go playing against the world's best. I feel like I'm going to get there some day, but I'm not there today."
That level-headed, measured approach doesn't surprise her dad.
"She's always been pretty mature," Max said. "She's been very, very practical about the whole thing. She's gone in eyes wide open. At the same time, she believes in herself and the people behind her believe in her."
Sheils moved to Mesa to prepare for this season and has played her first three pro tournaments nearby. She plans to play a couple more Cactus Tour events and all 14 regular-season Symetra events.
The next Symetra stop is March 22-24 in Winter Haven, Fla. The rest of the tournaments are in the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast. Most purses are $100,000 or $110,000.
Sheils will hit the road with momentum after her Symetra debut with rounds of 74, 71 and 72 (1-over-par total). She hit a 226-yard shot to 3 feet to eagle No. 15 in the final round and secure her top-10 finish.
"There were definitely nerves, especially the first morning," Sheils said Sunday. "I had to keep telling myself I belong out here. It was really good for the confidence. And I like to think that I create my own confidence. That's why I played well in my first event. I wasn't waiting for it to come; I was actively making sure that it did."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat