Allison Micheletti felt as if her world was ripped apart when she tore her ACL in a basketball game for Our Lady of Mercy Academy when she was 16. She was a mainstay for the Syosset school's strong team and had planned on playing soccer, basketball or both for the University of Connecticut. With one bad turn, off a steal 11 seconds into a game against St. Dominic, that all changed.
Three months into her rehab, her doctor told her she could take up swimming or golf. She chose the latter. Her dad, Joe, the Rangers' TV analyst who was then on Islanders telecasts, took her to the driving range at Cantiague Park in Hicksville. Something clicked. The family joined Mill River Club in Oyster Bay and, even when her knee wasn't up to tackling the course, she practiced her short game for hours.
"That's about the only thing she could do," her father said. "When you blow out your knee, it takes a long, long time to recover, and some never do. But she could go out and putt and chip and that's what got her started."
She played two years for Furman, moved to Arizona to work on her game full-time with teacher and CBS commentator Peter Kostis, then turned pro. At 24, she plays the Cactus Tour and is competitive with golfers who, as Joe said, "have hit thousands and thousands more golf balls" than she has. Starting May 14, she has the chance to become a national sensation as a contestant on Golf Channel's reality series, "The Big Break Atlantis."
That basketball injury might have been her biggest break.
"I wouldn't say I'm naturally talented for golf. I just love to work," she said from Arizona. "My brother and I grew up playing sports. With my dad having been a pro athlete, we always felt, 'We can do this, too.' We didn't have any idea how difficult it is.
"He never pushed us. He always said, 'If you want to quit, you can quit tomorrow. But if you really want to do it, you have to put the time in,' " she said, mindful that Joe, a former defenseman for the St. Louis Blues, is the nephew of Lou Barle, who played pro football and basketball. "It's like anything else, if you're a lawyer or in any other business, to get to the top, you have to go through the struggles."
Micheletti hadn't planned on being one of 3,000 applicants for "Big Break," but a producer showed up at a tournament and insisted on interviewing her. A masters student in communications, she was a natural.
So she will be on a series that could help her make a name for herself -- having become known in golf circles for dating 2010 PGA Champion Martin Kaymer until a month ago. "Next year is going to be a big year," she said, referring to her hope of qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack in Southampton, where she often plays.
"I'm really proud of her because she has stayed with it," said Joe, a single-digit handicap. "Now I don't even think about beating her. I just have her look at my swing and ask her to give me some tips."