"Off the Course" is where we talk to the players, learn about who they are, and get their thoughts about playing the game. From time to time we'll also interview college players about their junior careers and how college golf is different. We welcome your comments and suggestions. E-mail us or call toll free- 888-549-4653.
2001 AJGA All American - First Team
Medalist - 2002 Scott Robertson
Medalist Ė 2001 Junior Champions Ė El Conqusitador
Medalist Ė 2001 AJGA Robert Trent Jones
Medalist Ė 2001 AJGA Buick Open
Medalist Ė 2001 AJGA Trophy Lake
Medalist Ė 2001 AJGA Aspen Junior Classic
Medalist - 2001 Worldcom Junior Classic
Medalist Ė 2000 Castlewood Junior
Medalist Ė 2000 Tokay Junior
Paula is an AJGA All American and a freshman at the Leadbetter Academy in Florida. We sat down with her at the Doral Junior last December.
Hi Paula. To get started tell us about your family.
Well Iím an only child. No brothers and sisters.
Where does your family live?
We live in Pleasanton, CA but now Iím a student at the David Leadbetter Academy here in Florida. Iím a freshman.
Weíre sure this is the same question you hear in every interview but tell us how you got started playing golf?
I started playing golf when I was about 10. It wasnít competitive golf, just playing more with my Dad. Then about age 11 I started playing in some small tournaments. I really started to love the competitiveness and the pressure. It was also something I could do with my Dad. I had been a gymnast and doing all that with my Mom and not spending anytime with my Dad, so golf helped me do that. I actually played in about 15 tournaments in northern California the summer I was 11.
How well does your Dad play?
He does well. He does fine.
Were there other sports you played?
Yes, I played tennis. I also played soccer. But I didnít like the running so that didnít last too long.
So weíre not going to see you anytime soon in ďspeed golfĒ?
No, I donít think so. Definitely not. Definitely not.
When you started to play did you take lessons or did you just hit the ball around in the beginning?
I had the chance to work with a lot of good teaching pros. I played around with my Dad a great deal. Iíve had quite a few lessons in my life and right now itís everyday at the Academy.
Can you tell us about your first tournament? Do you remember it?
Actually I do. On the very first hole I had a putt of about two inches and I whiffed it! Thatís what I remember about my very first tournament, missing a two inch putt. But I played a lot of tournaments, as I said, when I was 11. They were nine holes for 11 and under and I loved playing them.
Do you remember your first win?
Hmmm. Iím not sure but when I was 11 I had 13 wins in a row. I really donít remember the very first one.
Do you remember the first time you broke 40 for nine holes and par for 18 holes?
Breaking 40 for nine holes came pretty quickly and I think I was still 11. Breaking par happened when I was 13. It was a tournament round and in fact it may have been the AJGA Lucent Girls, my first AJGA event. I finished 7th and then I got into everything.
So youíre now at the Leadbetter Academy. Are your parents staying there with you?
We live on campus and itís nice. Itís right there and convenient. We have a regular family life. Not a lot of free time. On a typical day I get out of bed at 5AM, go work out for about an hour, and get to class by 7:30 (AM)
Do you work out alone or with fellow students?
By myself. Then I go to class from 7:30 to 12 noon. Then itís home, eat lunch, and off to the course or practice range until dark. After that I eat a quick dinner and then I go to a school study hall at Pendleton Academy from 7 to 9. Then Iíll study until 10 at home and then I go to bed.
People are always interested in how a player of your caliber approaches a tournament. Is there something special you do to get ready?
When youíre on the golf course you cannot be thinking about your swing. Youíve already done all the work and it all depends on how hard you practice. You might work on technical things about a week or so before and then play a lot. Itís hard playing competitively by yourself so you try to play in a group. Then you go to the tournament and if youíre ready, youíre ready. If youíre not, youíre not.
Do you have a circle of friends at school?
Yes quite a few. Aree and Naree (Wongluekiet) and Taylor Leon are a few. Taylor and I are best friends. It was hard last year talking to the tennis players and the hockey players but now this year Iím meeting more people. Itís a lot of fun, the socialÖ everyone is coming from the same place, they want to be number one. You make friends forever.
If we put those friends in a room and ask them about you, what are they going to say about you personally?
Theyíd probably say Iím outgoing, that I have a lot of energy. On the golf course Iím a totally different person. I do not talk on the golf course. Itís very hard for me to start conversations because Iím there for four or five hours. But afterwards Iím totally different person. On the golf course I am very serious.
1,089.No reason, I just thought of it.
Take us through the four parts of your game, driving the ball, irons, short game and putting and describe each for us.
My irons and my woods are the strongest part of my game. My short game is the weakest. Iím been working really hard on that. Iím a decent putter but if you want to be good you have to be an excellent putter. Iím not quite there yet. I keep statistics after the round. Our instructors have us do that. Ian, my instructor, will look at those and say ďWe need to work on that.Ē and we do.
Whatís coming up for the 2002 season?
Normal schedule. All the big junior events, maybe a few womenís amateur events. Maybe an LPGA but I try to stay in the present. I have a few more years before I graduate from high school and I definitely want to go to college. Then I want to be on the tour. But for now, getting into an LPGA event is not a major priority.
Take us through your bag. What are you playing?
Titleist 975J driver, Vokey wedges, 990 irons, Cobra 7-wood, Newport Middle Spec (Titleist)putter.
What is it about golf that you love. You love the sport. Why is that? What is it about the nature of the game that attracts you.
You meet so many nice people and families. Every tournament you go to you meet new people. I have friends Iíll know forever from playing golf.
Whatís the toughest part of the game?
Golf is all mental, so controlling your emotions. Attitude also. I worked with a sports psychologist once or twice a week on attitude going into a tournament, how to react after a shot. She would ask me if I had a game plan, was I being too technical, things like that.
How do you manage the course?
Iím a very aggressive player. If I have a shot, I will take it. I will not hesitiate. You know you can do it because youíve practiced it. Itís also a huge help to know youíve done it before and thatís all experience.
How do you handle keeping from getting burned out on the sport?
Itís hard for me to get burned out. But I will take half the day off, say on a Sunday. But itís my decision to be around the sport all the time.
What would you want people to know about you?
That Iím fun to be around. That Iím doing what I really love with golf. That I want to be number one without that sounding bad. I donít think thatís arrogant, itís a goal, you cannot deny that, and itís part of your self confidence to perform.
What about the role parents play?
My parents go to every single tournament. Their support is important. To be walking along and seeing them on the cart path is huge! Just looking at them over there just helps so much. My Dad is always ready to help me with golf, school work, whatever. Mom is always there. Sheís outgoing and fun and very supportive.
Last questionÖlook out to the foreseeable future and how would define your success?
I want to be able to do everything I can, help people too, thatís important, make the LPGA when the time comes, just live life every day and donít take it for granted.
Thanks Paula. We enjoyed it.
I did too. Thank you. I appreciated it.