U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Catching Up With 2014 Women’s Amateur Champion Kristen Gillman
August 6, 2015 | Far Hills, N.J.
By David Shefter, USGA
Kristen Gillman’s defense of her U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship title begins on Aug. 10 at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. It has been a whirlwind year for the 17-year-old from Austin, Texas. She has competed in three women’s professional major championships, including the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club, visited six countries, and even traveled around the world during a three-week period last fall. On the eve of this year’s Women’s Amateur, Gillman answered a few questions about her last 365 days, a journey that began with a 2-up victory over Brooke Mackenzie Henderson in the 2014 championship match at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.
Now that it has been a year, have you had time to reflect on your accomplishment?
Gillman: I think it has [sunk in]. It isn’t going to stop me from wanting to achieve more things like that in the future. It definitely makes me hungrier to do it again.
Has it been different playing in USGA or other big events as the Women’s Amateur champion?
Gillman: You don’t think anything of it before you are about to tee off and then when they announce your name, they announce you as the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. I always get surprised every time I hear that. I know I did it but sometimes I forget they are going to announce it. It doesn’t happen at every tournament, but at USGA events, it’s cool when they announce it before you tee off.
Was there a favorite country among those you visited?
Gillman: They were all fun in different ways. I liked them all.
Did you get to sample any local delicacies or try some different foods?
Gillman: I tried haggis in Scotland. It wasn’t that bad, but I definitely wouldn’t eat it on a normal basis. I tried a lot of stuff in Japan. They would have raw fish and rice, and egg that is not cooked [for breakfast].
Was there a landmark or moment that stood out?
Gillman: I guess going to Scotland was cool because that’s a place most golfers want to go.
You just returned from Scotland after playing in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry. What was that experience like?
Gillman: It was really cool. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It was cool to see what it’s like to play in the tough conditions. I’m definitely used to wind [being from Texas], but it was definitely a lot windier there than it is in Texas.
Was there a practice round or moment that stood out from your three major-championship appearances?
Gillman: The most memorable was being able to play with Michelle Wie and Mo Martin at the Women’s Open. They were both really patient and they both are really good putters.
Did you befriend any professionals?
Gillman: I really got to know [U.S. Women’s Amateur champions] Morgan Pressel and Lydia Ko all throughout the year. I’ve enjoyed playing with them in some practice rounds and talking about my tournaments. We really didn’t talk about [the Women’s Amateur].
What was the best experience from the year, whether it was a major championship or an amateur competition?
Gillman: They were all really fun. Playing in Japan [at the Women’s World Amateur], I had a lot of fun with my team, and playing in the Pan Am Games [in Toronto last month] was cool because that’s really a big event.
How were you perceived by classmates in Austin after winning the Women’s Amateur?
Gillman: There were some people who I would be talking to and someone would say, ‘Are you that girl who is really good at golf?’ I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know.’ But it was also nice because winning got me into a lot of things. I got to start school a month later [than expected].
The Women’s World Amateur, Evian Championship in France and Junior Ryder Cup in Scotland were all in the fall, so how much school did you miss because of those events?
Gillman: I was gone for 31 days. I missed probably 36 days of school before I started [in the fall]. And then I missed some [days] periodically throughout the year.
Can you estimate how many miles you have flown?
Gillman: I have no idea. I don’t really pay attention to [my frequent-flier status]. I flew to Japan, to France, to Scotland and back [to Texas]. We went around the world.
Did your teachers give you homework online?
Gillman: I had to withdraw from school [for the first quarter], so I wasn’t registered as a student. So technically, I didn’t have to make up the work for the first month. I skipped six out of the first nine weeks for the first quarter. I didn’t miss the whole thing, so I still had three weeks of grades. That’s what my [guidance] counselor told me to do. [After that], it was pretty easy to get everything made up. My teachers at my school are really understanding about athletes, so they don’t make it too hard for us to make it up. Now I’m all caught up and scheduled to graduate next spring.
What classes were you making up once you re-enrolled?
Gillman: Mostly just math. It’s my best subject, so I didn’t have to spend too much time making that up. Then I had to take two English tests. And I learned some physics. I get almost straight As.
Were you asked to do any special reports for a class?
Gillman: I did a PowerPoint about one tournament for one of my classes. It was the [LPGA Tour’s] Swinging Skirts [at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.]. It was for sports marketing, so I had to talk about what marketing the LPGA does.
Was it different competing in the team events in Japan, Canada and Scotland?
Gillman: Team events are a lot more fun, especially when you are playing for your country because you just get so excited to play with teammates whom you have known since before the tournament. So you are playing with your friends for your country.