Catching up with Kristin Walla
Nov. 21, 2011
Former University of Texas golfer Kristin Walla has earned her place in Stage III of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament by virtue of finishing 15th on the greens in Venice, Fla.
Walla, who competed at UT from 2005-2009, entered the final round tied for 10th place after capturing scores of 74-69-69. She heads to Daytona Beach, Fla., to compete in the third and decisive stage of the qualifying tournament from Nov. 30-Dec. 4.
Walla recently visited with TexasSports.com about her budding professional career.
How have you improved mentally and physically in the last two years? My game has come so far in the last two years. Two major factors have contributed to that. First, through working at the Jim McLean Golf School, I was exposed to the other side of the world of golf -- instructing. I learned a lot about cause and effect. In other words, what swing motions cause the ball to react the way it does. I also learned how better to use video to look at the golf swing. Then, after moving to Greenwich, Conn., for a teaching position, I met and started working with Ryan George on my golf swing. Throughout my life, I've had people tell me I had a good golf swing, but Ryan finally helped me figure out how to get the most out of it and why I was hitting my misses the way I always had. I felt like a cloud had lifted and for the first time in my golf life, I could see clearly.
Why did you finally feel ready to succeed on this stage? It wasn't until this summer that I finally believed I was ready, meaning that I knew I needed to get better before I could make it (on tour). My ball striking was finally getting to the point where it wasn't holding me back. I teed it up each round and earnestly felt like I was going to shoot under par every day. I have never felt more comfortable on the golf course than I did in Venice.
How are you going to spend the time leading up to the third stage? Obviously, I will continue to work on my swing with my instructor, Ryan, but also I will spend a great deal of the time just playing. I think that getting in as many rounds in real conditions is what I need most -- putting my mind in position to score and hitting one shot to one hole where it counts. One great thing about my current situation is that I live at a golf course. My practice facility is at my finger tips, so I can play and practice all I want. Short game is always key, and the harder I work on my short game, the less I worry about missing greens, and the more greens I tend to hit.
Your stated mission for the previous stage was a "birdie hunt." What is your mission for the next stage? What I meant by being on the "birdie hunt" is that I was out there playing for good things to happen, not hoping bad things don't happen. It's a mentality to keep me on the offense, instead of defensively trying not to make bogeys or not make mistakes. Obviously, I will make mistakes, but as long as I continue to hit fairways and greens, I know I will make my fair share of putts. In the final stage, a lot of players will shoot themselves out of the tournament simply because they are overwhelmed. Being "the hunter" instead of "the hunted" keeps me focused on the golf course instead of my competition. In golf, there are many things you can't control, my job is to take care of the things I can. I know I play my best when I am comfortable in my own skin and enjoying the moment. My mission is to stay in that zone.
In the collegiate level there is no presence of a caddie. How is the experience with a caddie? Having played with and without caddies and also having been a caddie myself, I know that they can be both invaluable or completely destructive. It's important to have someone on the bag who you trust, who knows what not to say and do. A caddie's job is to take care of all the little things, so I can focus on hitting the shots. The best caddies can save you three or four strokes per round if they communicate well, know how to read putts and grain, adjust yardage for wind, and help with course management. Most importantly, a good caddie will mesh well with a player's personality. I was fortunate to happen upon my caddie, Eddie Bass, somewhat by accident through a friend's dad, at the second stage. Luckily for me Eddie agreed to caddie at final stage as well. He's been a great asset in reading the grainy Bermuda greens in Florida. It's also just great to have someone to share the experience with. It's easy to feel alone out there.