She won the New York State Women's Amateur
championship three consecutive years (1999-2001), all while she was a student
at Auburn University. She played for the Auburn women's team from 1999-2003 and
earned All-America honors in 2000, 2002 and 2003.
During her time with the Tigers she won three tournaments including the 2000
SEC individual title, made the all-SEC team four times (first-team three
times), and led Auburn to SEC championships in 2000 and 2003 while. Her tie for
second-place in the 2002 NCAA championship is the best in school history. Also,
in the 2002 U.S. Women's Amateur at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough,
she qualified for the match play portion of the tournament and in the first
round defeated future LPGA star Paula Creamer 2-and-1.
Downey turned pro in 2003 and toiled on the Futures Tour — the developmental
circuit for the LPGA Tour — for several years and won the 2004 Lima Memorial
Hospital Futures Golf Classic.
"She brought the oversized check for $9,100 to school after she won the
Futures event," Pelin said. "She gave me an autographed picture of
her that hangs in my office. Every time she came back to visit, either for the
LPGA or outings at Brook-Lea, she always stopped back at school."
She had seven top-10 finishes on the Futures Tour before finally earning her
LPGA playing privileges in 2006. Playing at the highest level in women's golf,
Downey struggled. She played parts of five seasons from 2006-10 and earned just
over $152,000. In 50 career LPGA starts, she made the cut 15 times and had one
top 10 finish, a tie for fourth in the 2008 Bell Micro LPGA Classic.
For part of her LPGA stint she was sponsored by Paychex, the same
Rochester-based company that has long sponsored Greece native Jeff Sluman on
the PGA and Champions tours.
"There is great sadness at Paychex today with the loss of Danielle
Downey," the company said in a statement. "Danielle was a terrific
person and talented athlete. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and
friends during this difficult time."
When she decided to stop chasing her LPGA dream, she turned to caddying and
carried the bag of good friend Sarah Kemp, and later Laura Diaz.
"In early 2011 Danielle started caddying for me and quickly became my
best mate," said Kemp, who is from Australia. "She was my best pal,
but most of all the best person. To say I had fun with her walking the fairways
around the world would be an understatement. She was every word that means good
and will be missed unbelievably. She had the power to make you smile so much
your cheeks would hurt."
Said Diaz: "She caddied for me during a time when I was struggling and
she helped me keep it light and keep it fun again. She was doing great things
at Auburn and will be deeply missed by all. She touched my family, the tour and
the Auburn family – I can't imagine what the girls and coach Evans are going
through right now."
Downey eventually left the tour and went back to Auburn in 2012 and served
as a student assistant for the women's golf team while she finished her college
studies, graduating in 2013 with a degree in health promotion.
Last spring, when Auburn women's head coach Kim Evans was diagnosed with
ovarian cancer and had to leave the team, Downey took the reins and led the
Tigers into the NCAA Championship tournament in Athens, Ga. where the Tigers
"I'm absolutely devastated," said Evans, who has returned to work.
"Danielle meant so much to me, the girls and this program. Not only did
she give much of her life to Auburn as a student-athlete and as a mentor to
these young women, but she was so instrumental to this team during some tough
times over the past year. Danielle was like a daughter to me."
In 2013, Downey became director of golf operations for the school, serving
both the men's and women's teams by handling things such as travel, equipment,
daily golf house operations, and other administrative duties.
Downey is survived by her parents, Mike Downey and Phyllis Downey, sisters,
Erica Setzer, Melissa Sage and Shawna Tomasso, three nieces and three nephews,
and many friends. Arrangements are incomplete at this time. A moment of silence
was planned at Spencerport prior to Friday night's girls' basketball game.
"She was happy with her life and the direction it was going, working at
Auburn and playing a role with the team," Hoecker said. "Her life was
really coming together and God took her for whatever reason."
Includes reporting by reporter Victoria Freile.