"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.

Arnond Vongvanij

Doral/Publix December 2004

US Amateur - Advanced to Matchplay
USGA Junior Amateur - Semifinalist
AJGA - Hp Boys - Top Five
AJGA - Ringgold - Champion
AJGA - Bluegrass Junior - Top Five
AJGA-Thunderbird - Top Ten
Scott Robertson - Top ten

AJGA All-American - Honorable Mention
AJGA -Ping Indianapolis- Champion
US Junior Amateur - Semi-finalist
FCWT- Deacon Junior - Champion

Born in Hawaii but from Thailand, "Bank" has been a "player" since he was twelve. We talked with him at the Doral Publix Junior.

Bank, lets start with where you were born. Were you born in Thailand?

I was born in the United States. I was born in Hawaii. My Mom and Dad are from Thailand. My ancestry is Chinese. My great grandfather may have immigrated from China to Thailand but it was several generations ago.

So that makes you a citizen of the United States.

Yes, thatís correct, because I was born here.

When did you start playing golf?

I started playing golf when I was ten and a half. Back then I was into all kind of sports. I just saw golf on TV one day and I asked my Dad ďWhy is that guy with a negative score winning?Ē I played sports where whoever gets more points wins, so why was the person with less points winning? So my Dad gave me a golf club and I went to the range and started hitting. I just loved it.

Does your Dad play?

He played for a while when he was younger then stopped. He started playing again when I started to play but then I got better than him. But I like playing with him. Itís fun.

How long did it take before your first tournament?

I just played for fun for about a year and a half and then I started to play competitively. We were living in Thailand and all the tournaments when I was young were in Thailand. I played my first one at age 12 I think. It was different and hard because in Thailand you always have a caddy, when you play, even kids, and I had to carry my own bag. That was new for me.

When did you win your first tournament

It was kinda in Singapore. But in the first round I punched out of some trees and my fellow player did not know. I checked my scorecard but missed it. So I got disqualified. The rules officials said I was OK, but I did not want to play because it was not my score. So I didnít but they ended up giving me a sportsmanship special award. That was the first award I got in competitive golf. I was happy with that. I went back to Thailand and worked harder on my game and actually won my first event a when I was 12 and a half. It was also the same tournament where I shot a score under par for the first time.

So when did you come to the United States?

Iím in my fourth year now at the Leadbetter Academy. I came to school here in 2001. I was in 7th grade and now I am a sophomore in high school. The first year was tough because my Mom was not here, my Dad was not here and I missed them. But then the following summer my parents decided to buy a house near the Academy and I live with them now and George Soongarata stays with us.

You played other sports. Why do you play golf now? What is it about this sport that keeps you interested?

When I hit a good shot I just want to keep doing that. I want to keep repeating that, hitting good shots. So that keeps me playing. On the other hand, when I hit the ball badly, I want to go on and hit the ball good. So either way, I still play. I love it because itís an individual sport, everything is on yourself. There is no such thing as you ďcanít doí because anything can happen in golf. Itís not like soccer with your team or swimming. In swimming if you are faster you are faster. In golf you can have a good day or a bad day but anyone can win. In golf you also cannot repeat anything. You hit a shot and itís gone. Youíve already hit it once. You canít repeat anything. Itís interesting.

You go to the Leadbetter Academy and theyíre teaching you everyday, but is there anything youíre working on right now, thatís getting extra practice?

What I am working on really hard is my putting and my short game. That stays with you always. I like practicing it. On every chip there are five different ways you can play it. After practice we get into competitions with the other players to see how the practice has paid off, especially to see if the practice youíve done can hold up under pressure.

Bob Rotella talks about the three ďcísĒ in his book, composure, concentration, and confidence. Tell us about you in those areas. Letís start with composure.

I think I control my anger really well. I try to keep a good personality and a good attitude on the golf course. I donít believe getting mad or angry will help you pay better. Staying cool and calmed down will help you hit a better next shot.

How well do you concentrate on the course?

I want to have fun out there so I focus on concentrating just before the shot. That way you do not put too much pressure on yourself.

What is your confidence level on the course?

I know my strengths and weaknesses so that gives me confidence. I always try my best. My confidence builds after a couple of holes and when I start making birdies. My confidence doesnít build before the round because I donít know whatís going to happen. I gradually build it as I play.

Playing really well can build your confidence but do you think that playing really well early can get in your way too?

Yes. I see junior players playing really well and they starting thinking about it. I donít do that. I play the hole Iím on. It has nothing to do with the last hole and it has nothing to do with the next hole. I try to play one shot at a time and not even keep score in my head. Thatís hard but I try not to do that. I used to be really terrible at that. I knew the score of everyone I was playing with. Not only that, I knew the scores of everyone in front of me and everyone behind me. Or even in the other fairway !

Where do you want to go with golf?

I want to go all the way to the PGA. I want to make it to the top ten in the world.

Have you ever tried to play in other events like the US Amateur

I tried the qualifier for the US Open this year (2004) and won a playoff for first alternate out of first stage. I knew no one would withdraw so I signed up for an AJGA and went to play it. Then the USGA called and said I was in the sectional. But I knew I wasnít ready so I turned it down and stayed with the AJGA event and I won it. But the good junior tournaments Iíve played include the US Junior and Polo. Polo was tough but I made it to the semiís.

Are you a ďtechnicalĒ player or are you a ďfeelĒ player?

Iím both. I try to balance both. On my short game I have the technique but I use feel to execute the shot.

Do you want to go to college?

Yes I definitely want to go to college because my education comes before golf. If I canít play golf, I can make a living with what I learned in college.

What subjects do you like in school? Are you a math and science guy?

Yes. Iím taking chemistry this year and I love it. I like math and Iím good at it. English, Iím not bad at it but I get around.

What are your goals for the next year?

Before I graduate from high school I want to be the AJGA Player of the Year. I also want to get a good scholarship to college. Iíd like to make first team AJGA All-American next (this) summer at least.

Thanks !

Thank you, I enjoyed this