Hannah O’Sullivan, who will attend Duke in the fall, is ready to play in the LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup on a sponsor’s exemption.

Hannah O’Sullivan always had her eye on her primary goal. It’s just that the goal kept getting hidden by all those golf trophies.

“All along I said I wanted to go to college first,” said O’Sullivan, 18, a Chandler Hamilton High graduate who will enroll in Duke in the fall. “It’s always been important to me to have the experience. But I did want to explore all my options last year.”

A year ago, O’Sullivan’s options were varied and enticing. She had earned victories in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and also the Gateway Classic in Mesa, where she became the youngest player to win a tournament on the proving ground of the Symetra Tour.

BORDOW: It’s college first, then LPGA for Hamilton’s Hannah O’Sullivan

Her success allowed her to participate in major LPGA tournaments as well as last year’s tour stop in Phoenix. She was ticketed for enrollment at USC, but then decided to look into the prospects of a pro career, enrolling in the LPGA’s Q-School.

O’Sullivan had another change of heart in the middle of that experience, and now she’s back on her original track. Basically, she decided she can have it all – a college degree and a pro career – but on her terms.

“I know there are so many young players that are doing great on tour from an early age, but I did want to explore all my options,” she said. “I was able to reflect and think a lot over the summer and I just kept coming back to college, and I really realized that I want the full college experience I wasn’t willing to give that up.”

The experience of playing in LPGA tournaments last year helped convince O’Sullivan that college was the right decision for her.

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“That was one of the things that went into my decision,” she said. “I played in several tour events last year and I saw that there really are many, many people that have graduated from college and they’re doing great on tour.

“Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller those are some of my role models, so that made me realize I can go to college, have a great college experience, graduate and then pursue my dream of being on the LPGA Tour.”

Before she becomes a Blue Devil, however, O’Sullivan has a busy golf spring and summer planned. She is playing in this week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup at the Wildfire Golf Club, and two weeks later will defend her Gateway Classic title at Longbow Golf Club (the tournament wasn’t played last year).

In August, she’ll play in the U.S. Amateur at San Diego Country Club.

She credits her victory on the Symetra Tour as helping her understand that she belonged with the best players in the sport.

“The entire experience of the week and even winning the tournament was so special, and kind of surreal for me, actually,” she said.  “… It was a great confidence boost-kind of a momentum-builder for me as well. I learned a lot from that tournament. I think I grew a lot as a player, a competitor and even as an overall person.

“It opened a lot of doors for me. I was able to move on a couple of months after that and play a couple of international junior events, played well in the U.S. Open, and even won the U.S. Women’s Amateur … now we’ll see where it keeps going.”

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Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Where: Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa. Par 72, 6,601 yards.

Address: 5350 Marriott Drive, Phoenix, 85054


TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 3-6 p.m.; Friday, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday, 4-6 p.m.; Sunday, 4-6 p.m.)

Purse: $1,500,000; winner receives $225,000.

Wednesday: Official pro-am, 7 a.m.

Thursday: Founders Cup first round, 7 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.; Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 3-5 p.m.

Friday: Founders Cup second round, 7 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 3-5 p.m.

Saturday: Founders Cup third round, 7:35 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon.; Junior Golf Day, on course, 3-4:30 p.m.; Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 4-6 p.m.; Hall of Fame golf, holes 10-18, 4 p.m. (after final pro group)
Sunday: Founders Cup final round, 7:35 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, driving range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon.; Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 4-6 p.m.

Past champions: 2011, Karrie Webb (-12); 2012, Yani Tseng (-18); 2013, Stacy Lewis (-23); 2014, Karrie Webb (-19); 2015, Hyo Joo Kim (-21); 2016, Sie Young Kim (-27).