May 9, 2011
Women's golfer Tiffany Lua knows all about what it means to be a successful golfer. Lua has played at every level of the sport, including her participation on the U.S. Curtis Cup team as well as in several LPGA events. Now as a sophomore she reflects on her golfing career inside and out of UCLA and how the team expects to finish the rest of the 2011 season.
How long have you been playing golf?
TL: I started playing golf when I was eight. Now I'm 20, so I've been playing for 12 years. I started playing competitively when I was about 10 or 11. I started off playing SCPGA, which is something local just in Southern California and then when I was about 13 I started playing nationally on the AJGA circuit. Also around that time I was doing USGA during the summer. It was busy and it was a lot of traveling, but I enjoyed it a lot.
When you were younger, you were also a competitive swimmer. Was there a specific moment when you realized that you wanted to pursue golf instead?
TL: Yeah, it was up until I was about in fifth grade. I started swimming when I was four and it was more for safety issues to make sure I could swim, but then I really got into it. At one point I was doing both golf and swimming, competitively, and it got to be really tiring. My parents told me that I should probably just choose one. So I chose golf. For the most part, there wasn't one specific thing that stood out to make me choose golf. Overall, I feel like playing golf benefited me more in the long run because golf was something I could do throughout my life. What also drew me to golf was that my grandparents played, so it gave me an activity to bond with them.
Back in October, you tied for first in the UNC-Wilmington Landfall Tradition Tournament and helped the team secure its first victory of the season. How did it feel to earn the first victory of your collegiate career?
TL: I remember when I won, I was kind of in shock because that day was a shotgun [format], so everyone is on the course at the same time. I didn't really keep track of the scores or anything. I figured I was close, but it took a while to settle in. I was really happy. It kind of puts things in perspective because it lets you know all of your hard work is paying off. It helped me to motivate myself to keep working harder and move in the right direction. Team-wise, I love helping out my team. They work so hard. It was an awesome feeling to contribute that to them.
Since the tournament in North Carolina, the team has been on a roll with four team victories and three third place finishes. What has propelled this momentum and what are your expectations for the remainder of the season?
TL: We did have kind of a rough start in our first tournament and we didn't really place as well as we expected. But it definitely helped when we got our first win because we knew the feeling of winning and we learned how to win. Overall, I think our team works very hard and is really talented. I think we just got more comfortable with each other and started to trust ourselves to have each other's backs. Now we're all really excited for the postseason because we think we have everything we need to be successful.
As is widely regarded, golf can be a very frustrating sport. What keeps you motivated every day out on the golf course?
TL: Patience. Right now I'm making a couple of swing changes that I want to implement into tournament play. So far it's been tough to keep making the adjustments because I'm so used to doing things the old way. I think staying patient helps a lot. We all know how good we are, so now it's a matter of continuing to put in the hard work and watching the results come to us.
Describe the experience of competing for the victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team. What is it like playing on the international stage?
TL: It's an amazing feeling. When you hear your name called, you get reminded that you're representing your country and your teammates. It's hard to describe, but it just gives you butterflies and chills when you know that you're out there playing for your country with people who you've been competing against for pretty much your entire life. It just makes me really excited to fight for my country and represent it overseas.
College golf brings in an element not common to the sport itself - the team. How is it competing with your teammates to achieve a victory even though your round starts and ends with you?
TL: I think as a team we understand that if we focus on ourselves and do our best it will benefit the team. We try not to worry too much about what other teammates are doing and focus more on ourselves by going out there and doing our best. We all know that everyone else is going to be doing the same, so it takes away some of the added pressure. That's the biggest difference between this year and last year - now we have a higher level of trust among the traveling team, which keeps us more relaxed.
You've also competed in three U.S. Women's Opens. Is competing in a USGA event much different than playing at the collegiate or any other level?
TL: Yes. When you get there, your eyes are always wide open staring at the stars because all of the people you look up to and watch on TV are right next to you playing on the golf course. You get a little star-struck. For me the biggest difference was the crowd. Not too many people watch amateur golf so it's a completely different feeling. But when you're there, you realize that they're human, too and even professionals make mistakes. It just brings you back to reality and shows you that in the end it's still just a game.