Victoria Gailey's love of golf started a young age.
"My dad was a teaching professional, my aunt played golf at Oregon State, my whole family was around golf, so as soon as I could walk and hold a club, they just kind of put it in there," the Nevada Wolf Pack standout said. "So I've always been around it. But they never forced it. It just happened, and I grew my own love for it from a really young age. My dad use to always jimmy up clubs. He'd take different heads, shafts from kids clubs and he'd build them together. I think my first putter was like a Snoopy putter or something that's the size of my calf. It was so small."
Gailey, who will lead Nevada into the Mountain West championships starting Tuesday in Palm Desert, Calif., continued on with golf after the early start. A native of Tigard, Ore., she said one of her victories when she was in high school was a turning point for her career.
"I think one of my favorite wins like to this day was winning the Oregon Junior match play, the Bob Allard Tournament at Waverly Country Club," Gailey said. "That was my big breakthrough as a junior, and I think that has helped me kind of get a lot better throughout my entire career, and that was like the first time that I was, like, 'I really like this, and like that I can do it.'"
Gailey was recruited by schools in her home state such as Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State as well as Weber State and Wyoming. But she chose Nevada and quickly made an impact with the Wolf Pack. During Gailey's freshman season, she broke the school's single-season scoring average at 73.43. She played in all 10 of the Wolf Pack's events with 11 of her 30 rounds at par or better.
As a freshman in 2019, Gailey helped the Wolf Pack finish second at the MW championships, a program best for the Wolf Pack since joining the conference. Gailey finished in fifth place, and with last year's MW championships being canceled due to COVID-19, she's excited to get another chance to play at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Desert.
"I am definitely going to use all the knowledge I learned my freshman year from playing it," Gailey said. "I'm going to have the conditions in mind. The LPGA played there a couple weeks ago for their major championship and so the conditions are definitely going to be tougher, with a thick rough and super fast greens so I'm definitely going to keep that in mind when I'm preparing this next week, kind of like tailoring my game toward those conditions, making sure I'm hitting fairways and practicing those high lofted shots on a thick rough. I'm definitely just gonna keep in mind what I've learned, and use that to my advantage and also help my teammates out who haven't played before."
While Gailey's sophomore season was cut short due to COVID-19, she was still able to play golf last summer in Oregon and said it was a memorable experience playing in the amateur events with friends from junior golf. Gailey won the 23rd Oregon Public Links Championship and finished runner up at the Oregon Women’s Stroke Play Championship.
"I'm super thankful I was still able to compete in outside events, and I think that's part of what's helped me due better this spring," Gailey said. "I kept my competitive juices flowing and I played in those events, so it wasn't much of a shock coming into spring competition because I was just picking up where I left off. It's just different because now I'm with the team."
Gailey won her first college event last month at the BYU Spring Classic and was named MW golfer of the week as a result. Since then, Gailey has finished the final two regular-season tournaments in the top 15.
"Finally getting that win really just helped me realize that I can do it," she said. "It kind of showed me that all of my hard work throughout my college career has been paying off. It's really just given me the confidence I can shoot around par every time and under, and I think it's helped me just gain my confidence to get additional top 10s and top 15s."
Nevada enters this week's MW championship ranked 113th in the nation by GolfStat, which ranks seventh out of nine MW teams. But after its near victory as an underdog in the 2019 championships, the Wolf Pack is looking to do damage again this week.
"It would mean everything for us," Gailey said of winning a MW title. "Just to see our vision and our goal come true, and also it would get us a regional bid, which would be amazing. So I know we're all really looking forward to this week, and we've learned so much through all of our tournaments. COVID's been a tough year. A lot of girls haven't been able to play in the fall. I was lucky enough to take advantage of that opportunity, but it's definitely been a big learning experience this spring, kind of figuring out what we need to work on. I think because we've learned so much, we're really gonna be at our best come for Mountain West."