Tiffany Lua is a 19-year-old freshman at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) who hails from the Los Angeles suburb of Rowland Heights. Along with teammate Stephanie Kono and six others, Lua was named to the USA Curtis Cup Team on April 12. The 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinalist and two-time U.S. Women’s Open participant recently chatted with USGA communications staff writer David Shefter about being selected for this prestigious competition and other topics.
What was your reaction upon receiving the phone call from the USGA that you had made the Curtis Cup Team?
Lua: I was surprised. I was at the airport traveling to the ASU (Arizona State University) tournament. At the same time, I’ve worked hard and it was nice. I am really looking forward to it. It’s just a huge honor to represent your country.
Have you represented the USA before in team play?
Lua: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a couple of team events. I’ve played two Junior Solheim [Cups], one Junior Ryder Cup and three Canon Cups (American Junior Golf Association event).
What was it like to compete in your first international team event and how will you use that experience at the Curtis Cup?
Lua: It’s a really good feeling to hear your name called on the first tee. Tiffany Lua from the United States. You just feel proud to know that all of your teammates are right behind you and all backing you up.
How about the emotions as you prepare to hit that first tee shot?
Lua: There might be some butterflies. You’re going to be nervous but at the same time, it’s one of those things where you have to settle down a little bit and take a few deep breaths. Don’t forget to breathe. That’s kind of important.
How nice is it to have a fellow UCLA teammate, Stephanie Kono, on the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team?
Lua: We were talking about how excited we were. We both know everyone on the team, so it’s not too much of a problem. It’s just nice knowing we’ll be traveling together to the same places. We’ll both be stressing about school because we are missing a lot. It’s just nice to have somebody by your side.
Stephanie told me that she is taking three classes this quarter at UCLA. How many classes do you have?
Lua: I am also taking three classes. One of my final exams, for sure, is during the Curtis Cup. So I have to try to figure that out and take [the final] before and get it out of the way. It’s not going to be easy.
What classes are you taking?
Lua: A classics class, cultural studies of Eastern Europe and statistics.
Being a freshman this year, how have you balanced the higher academic load with your golf?
Lua: It’s not easy, but at the same time, once I have everything laid out, I’m an organized freak. I have my planner all the time. For the most part, I do OK with it.
Stephanie Kono says you are quite funny on and off the course. Are you the life of the party?
Lua: I like to keep some sort of relaxed mood. I can be serious, but I just like being chill. I find myself somewhat of a chill golfer. I sing in between shots. I just like to enjoy myself during my time on the golf course.
Does that demeanor help when it comes to pressure situations?
Lua: Yeah, totally. It just lightens the mood up. Especially in golf, you can get so caught up in the moment. You can just add more pressure to your shots when you don’t need to. Loosen up a little. In the end, it’s just a game. I just feel like I enjoy it more personally if I ease up a little bit.
What do you know about the history of the Curtis Cup?
Lua: Martha [Lang from the International Team Selection Committee] told me this was going to be a really special Curtis Cup because the Curtis sisters who founded this tournament, the Essex Club is their home course. And the fact that [captain] Noreen [Mohler] is from Massachusetts, this is a whole new experience for the Curtis Cup in general. I am really looking forward to that.
Have you played Donald Ross layouts before and do you like classic courses?
Lua: I am pretty open-minded with golf courses in general.
What parts of your game are you working on as you prepare for the college postseason and the Curtis Cup?
Lua: I’ve actually made a big change to try to simplify the movements in my swing to shorten it a little bit. It’s gotten a lot better. It’s not completely perfect yet. I’ve gained a little bit of yardage, which helps. Basically try to keep my short game sharp and putting.
Not only is fellow Bruin Stephanie Kono a teammate, but you also have two other Pacific-10 Conference rivals on the squad in Jennifer Song (USC) and Jennifer Johnson (Arizona State). Can you get along for a few days?
Lua: I don’t think it will be a problem. At least we’re not football players. That might be a different story. I think we are good with golf.
How well do you know everyone else on the team?
Lua: The person I know the least would probably be Cydney Clanton, but I did play junior golf with her for a year or two. The Junior Solheim Cup I played with Jessica [Korda] and for the Junior Ryder Cup, I played with Alexis [Thompson], so I know those two fairly well. Jennifer [Song] I’ve gotten to know a lot better over the last year just because we have played together in college. She’s really fun, too.
How do you think you’ll do with foursomes (alternate shot) and four-ball competition?
Lua: I think I’ll do fairly decent in it. I am usually pretty consistent, so I think that will help a lot during alternate play. No apologies as always.
Have you talked to any former Curtis Cup players to get a feel about what the experience will be like?
Lua: No, I haven’t been able to get in touch with anybody. Coach [Carrie Forsythe] was saying just have fun with it. We’ve all worked hard as a team to get there and just go out there and kill it.
You had a very successful 2009 summer campaign. How much do you think reaching the Women’s Amateur semifinals help in getting you named to the team?
Lua: I was able to have a fortunate summer. I think my finish at the Am helped a lot and the fact that I played a couple of the [U.S. Women’s] Opens [in 2008 and 2009]. Each year I just try to do my best and go in with an open mind.
You were near Boston for last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Red Tail. Did you visit the city?
Lua: My mom and I went around the [Quincy] Market area and basically ate. That was basically it. It’s such a lively area. We actually only spent a half-day there before leaving for the airport, so it will be nice to spend some more time there and visit all the little stores.
What’s the one non-golf-related thing you want to do while in Boston?
Lua: Shopping. Whenever I am in a new city, I always ask the front desk or townspeople if there are any it places to eat. I always like trying new things. That would be really cool.