skip to main content

Karen Garcia: An Interview with the Champion October 1, 2015 | Nashville, Tenn.

Karen Garcia outlasted Pamela Kuong to win the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur at Hillwood C.C. in Nashville, Tenn. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

Q. Congratulations on your victory. You got off to a very good start in the final match. You built a 3-up lead through 9.

Q. How were you feeling at that point, and did you feel kind of feel like it might tighten up on the back nine like it did?
KAREN GARCIA: I knew Pam would start making some putts and she would scramble. Part of it is I was just thinking on the way down the 10th fairway it's just like how many holes -- you know, it's a lot of holes to play in nine rounds in eight days.

So I started to feel it in my legs, and so I was trying to stay really focused. That was not easy. It was not easy. So I felt good about being 3-up. I'm glad I was 3-up. But I didn't feel like I had a solid hold on it.

I figured Pam would start making some shots and I would have to tough it out.

Q. What were the strengths in your game that allowed you to play so well this week?
KAREN GARCIA: Well, I think I probably hit the ball a little farther than a lot of the gals here, and that really helped. I could go over some of the bunkers. I didn't have to even think about them. That made a difference. I got hit shorter clubs into some of holes, so that really helped.

But then sometimes you find the woods as well when you're a long hitter. But that definitely was an advantage. I also -- Stuart Smith is a member here, and he came out one day. My three friends from Northern California, we were playing a practice round and he kind of walked around and told us a little bit about the greens.

I really felt like I just had this inside edge. And really it wasn't me, because it was my husband that then that took all that knowledge and would tell me where to putt it and I just would.

So that made a difference, just having that course knowledge and being able to figure it out. We don't play on Bermuda out west, so this is a total -- worrying about break and downgrain, upgrain is difficult.

Q. So you have a big lead. Pam came back and even took a 1-up lead on 16 when you pulled your tee shot there. Heading to go 17th tee, what did you tell yourself with two holes left and now down one, which was a complete reversal from the earlier part of the match?
KAREN GARCIA: Exactly. Well, like I said in there, no matter what happened, I was going to be okay because Pam's wonderful and I really -- but I knew that I had an advantage length-wise. Even into the wind I knew I was going to have a short wedge into 17.

I knew especially when she hit her tee shot a little bit left I thought it was going to be hard for her to maybe clear the creek. Though I saw her make par from behind the creek yesterday.

So it wasn't anything that -- but I felt like I just could go at it. I actually hit a pretty good hybrid, hit a pretty good wedge to a safe spot. My husband was like, Go right of the flag. Do not go at the flag. We knew it went off.

18 I knew I had an advantage with my length. I knew I could reach that green or I was close enough to putt, so I felt that was going to be an advantage.

So I felt like I still had a chance. I told my husband, Let's win the next two holes and we'll be fine. Who knew.

Q. Golf's been a big part of your life. You were a collegiate player, and you've been playing and competing in the game for a number of years. Where does this USGA championship, what does that mean to you right now in the moment?
KAREN GARCIA: Well, actually I was a college softball player. I didn't start playing golf until after college, and so I feel really young in this competition aspect of it.

I'm in shock. To win a USGA event, to think of all the people before me that have their name on this trophy, I've played in I five mid-Ams and a state team and never even come close.

So to have stayed calm all week and stayed in the moment, as they say, was the biggest challenge, I think. You got to get out of your own way and have a good week.

Again, to have the people before me that won the U.S. Senior are amazing golfers, and I'm so happy at this point in time I can play golf and play at a high level.

Q. They were nice to grant you an honorary membership. What are your impressions of the Tennessee hospitality being from California and visiting and playing here?
KAREN GARCIA: Amazing. People had told me before about how friendly people were in Tennessee, and that's no lie. No lie at all. Felt very at home everywhere: At the course, around the community. Everyone was so nice out about. Not that we got to go out that much and roam around.

Q. Did you eat some grits and biscuits while you were here.
KAREN GARCIA: I had a bite of grits. I'm not a big grits fan. (Laughter.) The grits and gravy and all that, yeah. Definitely had some barbecue last night. That was wonderful. Beautiful place. I can see why people move here. I definitely do.

Q. What about the weather? Was that a factor at all during your week?
KAREN GARCIA: Two weeks ago I'm sitting in California on my little weather app thinking, Wow, it's going to be sunny. This will be my first time in a USGA event there won't be any rain. It's going to be awesome.

We get here, and oh, my God.

Q. Welcome to autumn.
KAREN GARCIA: I know. It wasn't bad. I'm originally from Oregon, so when I became a golfer was when I moved to California because I didn't want to play in the rain all the time.

I wore rain gloves most of the day today so that my grips didn't slip. I think only once did I lose my grip. It was warm enough. That was the nice thing. I was in shorts. I mean, Tennessee is a pretty nice place. I can see why people are here. Even with some rainy weather. Hopefully the hurricane is going to miss you guys though.