Several weeks removed from not making UCLA’s postseason roster for the Bruins’ eventual 2011 NCAA Division I women’s golf championship, Brianna Do made a surprising run to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship title at Bandon (Ore.) Dunes Golf Resort, defeating Marissa Dodd, 1 up, in the 36-hole final on the Old Macdonald Course. Do, a rising senior from Lakewood, Calif., defeated two USGA champions (Kristen Park and Emily Tubert), a UCLA teammate (Stephanie Kono) and a future Division-I individual champion (Annie Park) en route to the championship match. Do, the third UCLA player to win the WAPL after Mary Enright (1981) and Tiffany Joh (2006 and 2008), graduated the following spring and is currently in her third season on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA Tour’s developmental circuit. One of her first professional starts came at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
Was there any special motivation after not making UCLA’s postseason roster?
Not really, because I knew why I was left off. It just came down to numbers for coach [Carrie Forsyth]. It’s not that I wasn’t motivated for the Public Links, but I kind of didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know whether I wanted to keep playing golf, because I couldn’t make the national-championship team. What does that say about my game? I was going into [the WAPL] as “let’s just see what happens and let’s see if golf is my future.”
In the quarterfinals, you faced more-decorated UCLA teammate Stephanie Kono, who was an All-American and competed for the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team. Did that 2-up win have any special meaning?
It was fun. We had played each other in match play at USGA events. Yes, we’re on the same team to push each other to play well and win national championships, but at the end of the day, it’s still an individual sport and I’m still playing for myself. I played her like I played any other opponent.
There was a total of six UCLA golfers in the field and two reached the semifinals (you and Tiffany Lua), and another reached the quarterfinals. Knowing what happened to you at the end of the season, did winning the WAPL have extra meaning?
I wouldn’t say special. It just shows how great our team was that year. We had a deep roster. It wasn’t like I was going out there to prove everyone wrong. It was to prove to myself that golf is something that I can do if I wanted it.
Did you feel comfortable playing in the windy conditions at Bandon Dunes?
I wouldn’t say I liked it or was used to it. I’m from Southern California where it’s not windy, not rainy. It’s just perfect weather year-round. Early in the week, I was just trying to mentally prepare. I knew everyone was playing in it. I tried to remember my swing thoughts and just go from there. There wasn’t anything else you could control.
In the championship match, you were 3 down after 22 holes, but then quickly squared the match over the next three holes. What did you tell yourself?
I tried to tell myself that I had a lot of holes left. Honestly, I was thinking, “Don’t lose it by a lot, like 7 and 6.” I just thought, “I’ve got to hit the fairway and go from there.”
Headed to the final hole, the match was all square. What was your mindset?
Once I hit [my approach shot], I kind of knew it was going to be really good. She had already hit her approach shot over the green and it was going to be a tough up and down from back there. It’s not that I knew I had won, but I had a [good] feeling.
Did people look at your differently after the WAPL win?
I think I looked at myself differently. I wanted to enjoy my final season at UCLA with my team and my coaches. I think I got a little more respect with my golf game. It’s not that I felt disrespected, but it was more of a validation for me and my coaches.
You were listed as being from Vietnam, despite being born and bred in Lakewood, Calif. How did that happen?
The year before, my dad had filled out the application for the WAPL and he had put that [I was from Vietnam]. For the one at Bandon, I had filled it out and I remember putting in [Lakewood,] California, but I guess it didn’t change for some reason. So, I was like, “Whatever, I’ll play with that for now.” My friends said, “Hey, you know it says you’re from Vietnam.” I told them my dad did that last year. They just thought it was really funny.
Do you still think about that WAPL championship?
I wouldn’t be where I am today in golf without the WAPL. I would probably be at a job doing something else. It was a big motivator to keep playing. It’s definitely a big résumé booster. It’s probably my biggest accomplishment. I think it’s influenced my game a lot. It’s still kind of amazing to think I won a USGA championship.
How important is it to you that you became a national champion after growing up at a public course?
It’s important. I don’t always get to hit [practice balls] off grass. I’m pretty much on the mats. [Earlier this year], we had a Symetra [Tour] event at Industry Hills [in Southern California] and the range is just mats. And some of the girls are complaining because they can’t hit off mats. I was like, it’s really not that bad, and you are only doing it for a week. Even though I [came] from a public course, I could still go to UCLA. You don’t have to be part of a country club [to fulfill your dreams].
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.