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June 6, 2019

Virginia Elena Carta

Galloway, New Jersey

Q. Have you been to this tournament before?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: No, it's my first time.

Q. What have you been seeing around? What's it like for you so far this week?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: It's been so much fun this week so far. I came on Sunday, so I had a little bit of time to walk the course and then I played it on Monday 18 holes, and then Tuesday 18 holes, and I played the pro-am yesterday on the Pines course. I played with Chris Lane, the chairman of ShopRite, and some of the directors and vice president, and it was just a lot of fun. We really enjoyed our time.

I think it's nice to just have the vibe of professional event such as the ShopRite, just being around the professional players and just practicing with them on the putting green or on the driving range and just seeing a lot of ex-college friends that now turned pro. It's just a lot of fun.

Q. I was going to say, are you still riding high from the national championships? How was that experience for you, and do you still think about that when you're out on a course like this?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, I mean, I'm still smiling, I think. It's just been two weeks, but I'm still smiling about it. It was a fantastic week, and I'm very happy that Gina Kim is going to be on my bag. She was a freshman at the national championship, and she tied for 12th at the U.S. Open, and now she's a little tired, but she's caddying for me this week. So definitely we are thinking about a lot of the memories that we're bringing here from the national championship. We still like watch videos about it and pictures. It's just an event and a tournament that we will never forget really.

Q. So Gina on your bag there; what went into that decision? How did that come about?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, we were talking about it two weeks ago in the locker room, and I was telling her, oh, I don't know who's going to be caddying for me at the ShopRite. And she just said, oh, maybe I can caddie for you. And I did not expect her to say that just because I knew she was going to the U.S. Open, so I was pretty sure she was going to be a little tired. In fact I was telling her -- she's still in the room sleeping.

But it's just great. It's just great that she wanted to come, and she was very excited about it, and she was out there with me at the pro-am yesterday, and we had a lot of fun, so it's nice to have a friend on the bag.

Q. Were you watching the U.S. Women's Open and going, oh, my God, I don't think I have a caddie next week?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yes, I thought about it so many times. I was just waiting for the last day and just seeing whether Gina was agreeing still to come. But hats off because that was very cool.

Q. Now, you've got a jam-packed summer coming up. You're going to the Marathon. I know you've talked about going to the Amateur. But you also are doing something come this fall. What is kind of on the schedule for you in the upcoming months?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, so I have a pretty packed summer. I am going to the Marathon, the LPGA Classic, in July, and then I'm flying back home. I have five days, and then I play the European individuals, and then I have five days, then I play the U.S. Amateur, and then I have a week, and I play Q-school, so I'm going to Stage 1 in California, and then that's going to be at the end of the August. And then in October I am going to Cambridge for 10 months for a master's degree, so I'm going to do that, and I'm going to be out -- I'm going to keep my amateur status in the meantime, and then I'm going to turn pro next summer. So as soon as I'm done with Cambridge, I'm going to turn pro.

Q. What went into that decision, first off, Cambridge, and then just to get your master's and kind of defer turning professional for a little bit?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: I think this past four years at Duke I always tried to balance as much as I could, how could I mix in golf, and last year I was a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship for Oxford, and then I applied to Oxford and Cambridge and just made the decision to give myself 10 months to just practice. I'm going to be playing for the team at Cambridge, so I'm still going to be playing competitive golf. It's going to be definitely different there than NCAAs, but still, competitive golf, and with our match against Oxford, which I'm very excited about. But I think it's a good time for me to just get a master's and then I think it's going to give me the opportunity to once I'm done, turn pro, and just being a professional golfer knowing that I have a master's degree in my pocket, and I think it's just going to give me much more freedom and just peace of mind for my game, as well. So I think it's a good combination.

Q. What's your degree in, and what will you be pursuing, what study, at Cambridge?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: So I studied at Duke environmental sciences and policy, and at Cambridge I'm getting an MPhil in environmental policy, so along the same line. I'm mostly focused on sustainable development and small-scale farming, so that's kind of my passion, understanding how to have really local communities -- like development around local communities starting from agriculture itself. So that was my business in undergraduate school, and it's definitely something that I will pursue.

Q. How does that connect with your home in Italy? Are they connected in some way, the farming aspect?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, so somewhat, meaning that when I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time with my grandfather. He was not a farmer, but he had a big garden, so he had like vegetables, he had an orchard, and I used to spend tons of time with him. And the passion about environmental sciences definitely comes from that. So I knew going to college I wanted to study that. I was in between geology or environmental sciences, and then I just decided to study environmental sciences.

Q. And how does a young woman from Scientifico end up in Durham?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, that's a good question. So I wanted to do both study and play golf and leave myself both options. If I were to stay in Europe, we don't have golf in colleges, so I would have had to have made the decision whether to just turn pro and play at age 18 or study. Instead coming to the United States I had both options open for four years, so that was the decision about coming to the States, and then why at Duke was just the best combination of the two. Yeah, I never regretted my decision.

Q. Did you apply elsewhere?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: No, just at Duke. I was recruited by 29 universities, and then I narrowed it down to three, and then I decided to go to Duke.

Q. Any other ACC schools?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: That recruited me, yes, but -- yeah.

Q. How did you get started playing?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: My mom used to play. Very bad player. And I just used to go around with her. It was a way for me to just spend time with her in the morning. She hates competitive golf, so the club used to have tournaments during weekends, and the first tee time was like at 8:00, so she would drag me to the golf course before 7:00 so we would play before anybody else, and I used to just walk with her, and I used to play a lot of different sports growing up, and then when I was around eight I just decided that I kind of liked golf and to just give it a try. I played basketball for a long time. I was better at basketball than at golf for a very long time, and then I got injured playing basketball and I just decided to stop playing basketball, and I just said, okay, it's my time to golf. My time at high school was definitely different than at Duke because we don't have golf teams in high school or any sort of sports team back at home, so we didn't have organized practice or anything like that, so it was more like practicing really during weekends plus one more day, so three times a week, and then traveling internationally for golf tournaments. So it was a big switch from three days a week to seven days a week in college every day.

Yeah, it was definitely different.

Q. And your mom's name?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Angela. So it's Angel plus A.

Q. I think you won an individual NCAA championship, right, as a team championship?

Q. Talk about the reaction to the different two championships.
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, I won the individual one my freshman year, so it's been a while. I was definitely riding a high after the individual championship. It was -- I mean, it was a great experience for sure, winning it with like 16-under, I think, and by eight. You know, when you have your week and finally things are working for you -- I still remember freshman year my long game was very good, 85 percent of greens in regulation and just hitting the ball very good. My putting was not so good, I was getting out of the cars with like par or like 1-over or something like that. And then finally at nationals my long game was not as good, but I started making putts, very long putts, too, so that's how I won that.

And then there was like a dry period in between for a little bit, but I have to say winning nationals as a team has definitely a completely different taste to it. We worked so hard, the whole team, to make sure we were working since September. I think when you're a senior and you see how nationals have been going for three years and you realize, okay, maybe we didn't start working for nationals since the beginning, and we wasted a lot of time that maybe other teams didn't waste, this team and this year we were really focused. We had different team meetings in the fall. We really talked about starting to practice like as if nationals was the week after since the beginning. And I feel like at the beginning everybody was looking at me like, are you crazy, nationals is in like eight months. But it's because they just did not experience the three years of national championship.

But everybody trusted the process, and it was just such a cool experience. I mean, everybody was working so hard since September, and we just had a very unified team, and the team culture was just great. We pushed each other the whole year. We had ups and downs, and every team has. We were waiting the whole year for just a day where everybody played good, and that happened on nationals on the second day when we shot 11-under as a team, everybody under par. The fifth score was under par, as well.

And we had been waiting for that moment the whole year. I think that gave us a lot of confidence going into match play, as well, even if we were not the first seed. We were just behind Texas. But I think even in the spring we did not win a tournament. We were always second the whole time. But I don't think -- I think that put us in an almost comfortable position going into nationals knowing, okay, we can win this. We can get second, as well, but I think we were just comfortable with each other, and I think the match play format really worked well for us just because of the work we did the whole year to just be together as a team.

Q. Was it humbling in any way to win it as a freshman individual and then not win it again? You said you had a dry spell.
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, it was definitely growing -- I feel like I matured a lot as a person through the years. It was humbling. I was injured and sick for a long time in between years, and that's why I focused a lot, because I then created the charity for the children's hospital. I just had a lot of ideas, and I couldn't really practice that much, so I just dedicated myself to something else.

But I think always being with the team and knowing that the coaches really cared about me and they just wanted me back out and playing tournaments, it was just great. Even if there was a dry period, winning in the fall again definitely was nice. But when you win with the team, it's just a much, much better feeling, especially at the Blessings golf course. That was such a tough course to play, both mentally and physically. It was just a long week.

Q. And something you'll share with those teammates for a lifetime, right?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yes. Yes. And it's nice, even here at the ShopRite, just seeing also former Duke players and just talking about -- I mean, at the ShopRite there are a lot of national champions, whether it's Amanda, who played in the pro-am, Brittany Lang, Lindy Duncan, Laetitia Beck, Yu Liu, Gina on the bag. So sharing just those national championships and those experiences, it has been something really amazing. And I have to say the pros have been super nice.

Q. Do they know who you are? Do the pros know who you are?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: It has been nice. Even Cheyenne Woods who played at Wake Forest, definitely she was telling me that she felt very bad about Wake losing, but I played with her at the Marathon a few years ago, and she was very nice, and a lot of the pros have been very nice about nationals.

Q. On Tuesday you were out playing, and I just happened to watch you play a few holes. Do you remember the moment when the little four-year-old boy came up on the 6th hole and you gave him a ball?

Q. You looked like you were having the time of your life.
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, I love -- I feel like when I play, I never really play for myself, and that's what I hated the most like when I was injured at Duke, just because I felt like I was not able to just give as much as I wished I did. I love to play for the game and like for the growth of the game. So just seeing young kids around, that's just the best part of playing golf in my opinion. I always try to just -- I know the love of like logoed balls, so when I have a Duke ball around, they really love that. So I try to just -- I remember myself when I was a little kid, and I went and watched Lorena Ochoa at the British Open in Scotland, I was one of them that really wanted her autograph and was looking up to any really player that was out there. So I still remember those moments and how much I appreciated professional players doing that or amateur players, as well. I feel like it's the minimum we can do.

Q. I think you made the kid's day. I thought it was pretty cool. What's your take on the Bay Course, and how does it fit your game, and what do you think it'll take to play well here this weekend?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: It's definitely a different course than any course we play in college golf or as professional players than any other LPGA events. It has more of a linksey look for it. Depending on the wind, because what I've heard is the wind comes from the bay in the afternoon, but in the morning it goes into the bay, so holes are going to be changing a lot. We've got an early tee time tomorrow, and then an afternoon tee time on Saturday. I think I'm going to be playing different winds. But at the same time, I think having the ball in the fairway most of the holes, that's going to be key, and wedge game. Par-3s are long, and I think that's a characteristic of the course. I mean, other than 17, all the other par-3s are pretty long. So if you get out of the par-3 with a par, you're good to go, I think.

But I don't think that's going to be the key because even if you make a bogey, you have a lot of holes with birdie opportunities, so I think wedge game is going to be key this week. I mean, having the ball in the fairway and then wedge game.

Q. I have to ask you, what was your experience like when you played up here three years ago in the amateur at Rolling Green? You seemed to make a lot of new fans, but what was that experience like for you?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: It was a lot of fun. I definitely have a lot of friends at Rolling Greens. The girl that won the Battle of the Bay I think it's called, to get into the Monday qualifier, so they had a tournament to get into the Monday qualifier, she watched me play at Rolling Greens actually, so I saw her at Augusta this spring, and then I saw her again on the Monday qualifier. And they helped me getting a caddie for Tuesday. So I have a very good relationship with Rolling Greens, and I can't wait to just go back and play some more at Rolling Greens.

Q. How did you connect with this tournament? Did it just fit your schedule, or how did you connect getting into this one?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah, well, it definitely fit perfectly. I just played nationals and I had a week off, or a week, two week, and yes, I just asked for a sponsor exemption.

Q. Did you get to go to graduation?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: I did. It was the weekend before nationals.

Q. How was that for you, just graduating from -- you talked about how much you loved your experience at Duke, and now going on to Cambridge, was that a nice little -- we just talked to Jennifer and she missed graduation, so I was wondering for you, was it nice to be able to kind of go through the normal college thing of going to graduation?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: Yeah. It was definitely such an experience. I had my parents there. My cousin was there, family friend, like a big group that I'm not used to having in the United States, so it was something different and nice.

Yeah, it was fun. It was a lot of fun. My team was there. So I received an award at graduation that I didn't expect to receive. Environmental sciences and policy is underneath the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke, and they have an award that goes -- it's called the Sara LaBoskey award, and it's for personal integrity and academic excellence, and it's given to one student that studies environmental sciences and policy, and nobody told me I was going to win it until the day.

So I had -- I knew about this award, so I was working very hard to get this award because I really wanted it, and this is the competitive golf side of me (laughter), and I told my mom on graduation day, I was like, nobody told me I won it, so definitely I didn't win it because they wouldn't just announce it at graduation out of nowhere. But I ended up winning -- like the professor made the speech about this award, and she said, I'm actually going to have so much fun because the winner of this award doesn't know she won it. So yeah. So it was fun. It was a good moment for everybody, especially because it was unexpected. So it was nice, a good surprise.

Q. When you played at the Amateur at Rolling Green and Coach Brooks was there, I was with him, especially on the last day when you had your troubles but then rallied in such a great way, is he going to continue to be part of your amateur experience the rest of this summer? Is he coming up to watch you play?
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA: I don't know yet. I think now he's back in Oregon after he played the whole trip to the U.S. Open. But he might be coming to the U.S. Amateur. I would expect so since we are probably a lot of Duke players playing, recruits.

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