WAPL Champion Memories: Lori Castillo (1979-80)

March 21, 2014

By David Shefter, USGA

 b_Castillo1979_1980WAPLChamp --- Lori Castillo during the 1979 U.S. Women's Amateur Public   
Lori Castillo followed up her U.S. Girls' Junior victory in 1978 with consecutive WAPL titles in 1979 and 1980. (USGA Museum)   

Only three golfers have won both a U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and a U.S. Girls’ Junior: Lori Castillo, of Honolulu, Hawaii, the late Heather Farr, of Phoenix, and Cathy Mockett, of Newport Beach, Calif. Castillo was the first, following her 1978 U.S. Girls’ Junior triumph with consecutive WAPL titles in 1979 and 1980 at Braemar Golf Course in Edina, Minn., and Center Square (Pa.) Golf Course, respectively. Castillo, the daughter of a golf professional, defeated Becky Pearson, 2 up, to win her first WAPL, then edged Pam Miller, 2 and 1, a year later.  Castillo also helped the University of Tulsa win the 1980 AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) national title and became the first WAPL champion to play in the Curtis Cup Match, going 2-1-0 as the USA retained the cup in Wales. Castillo transferred to Stanford for her final two years of college golf before turning pro in 1983. After failing to obtain her 1984 LPGA Tour card at Q-School, she went to Europe, where she and five other American players were sponsored by a Swiss watch company. She competed on the Ladies European Tour (LET) in 1984-85 and ’88 – winning one title in 1984 – before returning to Hawaii full-time. In 2008, Castillo became the coach of the women’s golf team at the University of Hawaii.

What do you remember most about your two WAPL wins?

When you win an amateur event like that, I wanted to win it again just for people to not think it was a fluke. A lot of people are one-hit wonders, especially with that event.

In 1977, you qualified for the inaugural WAPL in Wisconsin. How important was that for you?

In the golfing world in Hawaii, you have a lot of blue-collar workers, so for us, the Public Links is a huge event. It really represents more of our society and our culture than it does the country-club scene. It’s the coming together of people who dig it out of the dirt at [places like] Ala Wai Golf Course… people that shag their own balls. The ones who stand in line for hours so that they can even play that morning. So when they started a Women’s Amateur Public Links, it was huge. The golf associations made sure that anyone who qualified would be able to afford to go. Those are the events you played in, because you couldn’t afford to do it differently unless your parents were really well off.

Who inspired you to win USGA national championships?

I had two people ahead of me who pushed the bar. Althea Tome, she was a year older and had been playing golf a lot longer than me. Althea won the [U.S. Girls’] Junior in 1977. Another player, Deborah Spencer, who was a year older than me, won the Junior World in 1978. When you’re playing with them all the time, you gain confidence that you are close to being as good as they are. You have that belief that you should be contending.

Did winning those first two USGA events help in defending your WAPL title in 1980?

I wish it was like that. It wasn’t like that at all. In 1979, I remember playing a practice round with the Hawaii contingent and Althea was in the group. I wanted to do so well that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in a practice round. Althea said to me, “Gosh Lori, you just have to relax.” And I did. I just put it in perspective that it’s just golf. In 1980, though, I really felt the pressure to win it again and prove it wasn’t a fluke. I had already been asked to play on the Curtis Cup Team, so now I’m considered one of the top eight [female amateurs] in the nation. I had a lot of confidence … so I [had the mindset] that I’m just going to go for it and not hesitate.

What happened in your bid for a threepeat in 1981?

Everyone kept talking about a hat trick; I didn’t even know what a hat trick was. I wanted to win it. I actually did play someone (Pam Elders) who did get hot, and I tried to hit it closer and it didn’t pay off (second-round loss in 19 holes). She was playing well. She was doing to me what I was doing to other people. I got a taste of my own medicine.

What made you such a tough match-play competitor?

There are two types of competitors: the ones who want to win and the ones who hate to lose. I hate to lose. I will be a good loser, but I just hate it. I think it’s because I grew up with four brothers and we always had to play against each other. If you lost, you would never hear the end of it. The match-play [format] made me focus not on the event, but the one thing right in front of me. It was like a chessboard and figuring out how not to lose.

Do any of your current University of Hawaii players know about your amateur accomplishments?

Our sports information director at Hawaii took my list of accomplishments and put together a bio on the Web page. I’m sure the kids read it and know [about] it. But I don’t really ask them or quiz them.

Now that you have your amateur status back, do you have the urge to compete in USGA events?

I played in the WAPL again [in 2006] when I got my amateur status back. I had just had a second wrist surgery. My mind knew what do with a golf club, but my wrist didn’t comply. I can’t play in the Senior Women’s Amateur because it conflicts with coaching. There’s no time to train or really work on your game with my job. I know some coaches play with their teams. I don’t do that. I am watching eight players at one time.

Are you sad to see the WAPL being retired?

It is a decision and that’s fine. I’m really sad because the concept of the event when it first started … was golf in its purest form. The people I competed against weren’t all college people. It’s just sad to see it go away.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

 

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