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April 5, 2013

Lizette Salas


THE MODERATOR:テつ We would like to welcome Lizette Salas to the interview room, here at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, a great day in the second round, 68, 4‑under par.テつ Tell us about your day, 5 birdies, 1 bogey, easy golf, right?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I try to make it as easy as I can.テつ I started off with a birdie and had my first 3‑putt, my only bogey of the day, so that made me a little frustrated, missed a couple of birdie putts on the front nine and turned it around on the back nine and started rolling them in.
I knew the wind was going to kick in, and I took advantage of each putt I had and almost chipped in on 17 and made a smart decision to lay up on my third shot on 18 and saved par.テつ So all in all a good day and stayed patient and lots and lots of smiling.テつ Even though I wasn't‑‑ I'm just really pleased how I played today.
THE MODERATOR:テつ You grew up about 100 miles or so from here.テつ The first person in your immediate family to graduate from college; you went to USC.テつ Talk about how you got into the game.テつ You're the daughter of Mexican immigrants, your dad worked at the golf course.テつ Tell us more about that story.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, my dad is the head mechanic at Azusa Greens Golf Club, and he's been working there for over 30 years, and I'm the youngest of three, and none of my siblings wanted to play golf.テつ And I went to work with Dad one day, and I picked up a golf club, and the head pro asked my dad to do a couple of favors for him, handyman work, and wanted to pay my dad, and my dad said, "No, can you teach my daughter how to play golf?"
So I started at seven and did not know how to dress, did not know ‑‑ barely had a full set of golf clubs, and got my first pair of shoes at the age of nine, and it's been a roller coaster from that point.
Played Junior Golf, didn't play much nationally, but I got exposed to a couple of colleges and universities and made the decision to go to USC, and it was the best decision of my life.テつ Won a National Championship in '08 and was a four‑time All‑American, so it's just been‑‑ this game has changed my life completely.
THE MODERATOR:テつ You then went on to play on the Symetra Tour a little bit, you traveled with your dad in a car, occasionally sleeping in that car; is that true?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ We decided to take my dad's 2006 Tacoma, red Tacoma across country three times just to save money because I didn't have any sponsors, and my dad was my caddy so that saved a lot and, you know, I did not like it.
But it was a great experience.テつ Just to share lots of stories in the car with my dad and, yeah, we had some tears, we had some laughs and some smiles and all in all I wouldn't have changed it for the world, and I think that's what made me the player I am today.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Come full circle now, you're here in Palm Springs, you've got family here now, sponsors, how nice is it to have a cheering section in the desert?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ It's a blessing to be so close to home and having my mom and dad here and my Trojan golf fans and my USC golf coach is here, my sponsors, MLC are out here supporting me and it's all in all a great week.
Last week I had my fan club come out, too, and that's what keeps me going is to hear "Fight On" and those screams and cheers for me.テつ I can't explain how blessed I am to be out here.

Q.テつ Are you nervous or does it feel good to contend for this major?テつ Also, did you ever come out here and watch this when you were growing up?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, I did. テつI remember watching Lorena, and I came out with a little banner for her that said "You can do it" in Spanish, and I had great memories from outside the ropes.
I'm trying to make some from inside the ropes.テつ I'm‑‑ I'm sorry, what was your first question?テつ Am I nervous?

Q.テつ To contend for a major?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ It's something that I've kind of trained my mind in the last six months, playing solid golf and being in contention last week and the week before, so I'm just trying to get used to it as fast as I can.
I actually like seeing my name‑‑ all players like to see their name on the leaderboard but to be on it, on a consistent basis, is a positive note for me.

Q.テつ What holes did you miss birdie putts that you think you should have made?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Nine.テつ It was less than 5 feet and I didn't even touch the hole.テつ It was not a good putt.テつ But, you know, putts come and go and you have to‑‑ Nancy taught me to get excited for the next shot.テつ So I just kind of erased that from my mind and just attacked the pin on the back nine.
THE MODERATOR:テつ That's Nancy Lopez.テつ She has served as a mentor to you?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Definitely.テつ I met her for the first time a year ago and she just‑‑ she watched me in Phoenix, all 18 holes, and I went to dinner with her and she has been calling and texting me with more advice, and that's something that's amazing about her.テつ She reaches out to a second‑year player and just kind of be my second mom on tour.テつ I just can't thank her enough for all the advise she has given me.

Q.テつ Lizette, you have been in contention, a strong start to the season.テつ What do you think the difference is between being in contention and potentially winning?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I think it's just minimizing the mistakes you make and really believing that you can win.テつ I was very frustrated last week, two shots off and I knew I could have made a couple of birdies, but it's experiences like those that keep me‑‑ that make me hungry to win.
Having my family here, too, just keeps pushing me, they keep supporting me and having support from the LPGA fans, I've been getting a lot of support, and that's been what's been helping me a lot this year.

Q.テつ What would qualifying for the Solheim Cup mean to you?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Oh, wow, it would mean a lot.テつ Growing up I was never picked for the Junior Solheim Cup team or the Curtis Cup team; I don't know why.テつ That's a goal this year.テつ It's in the back of my mind, but I know it's not going to be handed to me, and I know I'm going to have to prove myself that I deserve to be on the team and Meg and Scotty have been watching me lately, and I think they have their eye on me.テつ That's all I can ask for now, and I've got to go out there and do my thing, make some birdies.

Q.テつ You talked about minimizing mistakes and it's apparent today you had less fairways and less greens and ended up with a better score.テつ Is that what you're aiming at, as far as trying to get the most out of a round as possible?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, when I say "minimizing the mistakes" a year ago I would have been way off, and this year I've minimized them to where I can still hit the green and not be in trouble.テつ I've been working on that with my instructor and making those bad rounds even par or better.テつ Yesterday I had a not very good round but it was minus 2, and today I'm keeping it simple, and he's been a great help and helping me mentality on the golf course.

Q.テつ Talk about 18 and the decision you went through on that hole.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, I was in the rough off the tee on the left side.テつ I hit a 4 hybrid out of the rough and got stuck and went to the right rough, and it was not a good lie and I knew if I would go for it it would probably go in the water, so I talked‑‑ we talked it over, my caddy and I, and I said, "Look, if I go in the water I'm going to have a big number.テつ If I chip out I can get up and down for par" and that's what I did.テつ I chipped out, I had 88 yards to pin, hit a three‑quarter wedge, wind was into my face, and I knocked it in for 3‑foot, and I knocked it in for par.

Q.テつ Is that the same decision you would have made last year or would you have decided to go for it?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I would have gone for it and I'm comfortable in my short game and I'm not a long hitter so I have to make it up some way, so I've been working hard and dialing in with my wedged because that's your go‑to club.テつ I just trusted it and went with my first instinct and tried to save par.

Q.テつ You mentioned your siblings did not play golf.テつ Two, three, brother, sister, where are you?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I'm the youngest of three.テつ My brother is 29, my sister is 32, and they just did not‑‑ they didn't like golf.テつ My sister played soccer and my brother played football.テつ It was just not the thing you did where I grew up, but it was probably the only thing I was good at.テつ I played basketball, just wasn't tall enough, but golf was something that I was really good at.テつ So my dad and I worked really hard because that was my key to go to college and from college came to the LPGA.

Q.テつ After listening to you tell your story about your dad and driving across country and all that, when you were out here playing, I would assume that you feel like you're not playing for yourself, you're playing for a whole lot more than just you.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, definitely I sometimes feel like I'm playing for not only myself but for my family and people from Azusa, my community, my Trojan family, but that's all in the back of my mind, and that's what I learned from last year to this year.テつ I have been more comfortable in my own skin.テつ I'm not intimidated by anything now.テつ Last year I was just, you know, really nervous, really scared of every shot I hit.
Now I'm just much more confident and these last three weeks being in contention, that's been a boost of confidence.テつ What I think about is I have nothing to lose out here.テつ I'm not really supposed to be out here, but‑‑ by my story.テつ So I have nothing to lose and I'm going to go out there and give it my all and if not, there is the next shot, if not there is another tournament.テつ I just try to be very optimistic and just give it my all.テつ I played with Oscar de la Hoya at the Pro‑Am, and he was telling me to "go for it, go with your gut feeling," so I'm trying to listen to what all these Hall of Famer athletes did.テつ They have been a great help.

Q.テつ (Away from mic.)
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ My caddy, Greg is good friends with Oscar, so he called him up and said would you like to play in the Pro‑Am and Oscar is a big golfer, and he came out and he was like, "I want to play with Lizette" so I played with him on Wednesday, and my sister missed work just to see him.テつ We're big fans of him, and her jaw dropped when she saw him.テつ He's just so humble.テつ It's great having people like him and Nancy Lopez in your corner who are so humble and bubbly.テつ They never say no to an autograph or picture and they're optimistic and positive and yet so passionate and fierce.テつ They're not scared of anything.
I'm just trying to surround myself with people like that, so I can have the same success or even more success than they did.

Q.テつ Were you a boxing fan?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yes, I watched a lot of his boxing matches and we're big Oscar de la Hoya fans, and my sister was going to name her son Oscar if he won his fight, and he lost, so she didn't name him Oscar.テつ She named him Joseph.

Q.テつ Was that the other boxer's name?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ No, it wasn't.テつ She is not going to be happy that I said that.

Q.テつ You had a pretty accomplished college career but it seems like you've taken your game to the next level and I know you talked about confidence and stuff.テつ Is there something else you can put your finger on that allowed you to be able to go out and get a score?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I can't really pinpoint it.テつ There are so many things that happened.テつ Winning the playoff at Q School and coming out here and being one of the top rookies and I think over time and over each tournament I got more confident.
The caddy does a lot for a player and I made a lot of changes in Octoberthat boosted my confidence, boosted my game.テつ I switched instructors, I switched caddies, I switched clubs.テつ It was a big risk but definitely a big reward, and just surrounding myself with a great team around me, my agents are doing an amazing job of taking care of things outside the golf course which allow me‑‑ I saw that, Jeff.テつ And they allow me to go out there and do my things which is hit the golf ball and that's make as many birdies as I can.テつ So I have to thank my outside team that help me basically play golf.

Q.テつ How often do you think about the way you advanced out of Q School?テつ Is that something you draw on?テつ That's kind of like the ultimate pressure situation.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I think about it every‑‑ probably every tournament.テつ And, you know, if that hadn't happened my road, my start to LPGA would be a lot different.テつ But that's how much I wanted to be out here.テつ I think with last year being my rookie year, I got my feet wet, I didn't get as comfortable as I wanted, but I was in contention at the U.S. Open, I shot 80 there, and just a lot of emotions last year, but I wouldn't have change it.テつ This year I was more consistent and just trying to win as‑‑ like any other player wants to win out here.

Q.テつ Looking ahead to the Women's Open, to Sebonack, not a lot of players have played there.テつ What's it like to prepare for a place you've never been?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Never played there.テつ I heard it's a difficult golf course, just like any other U.S. Open golf course, definitely going to rely on my short game in case I miss some greens and a couple of fairways, but I'm just happy not to have to qualify for this this year, had to qualify the last couple of years so I'm excited to be there and play one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world.テつ We'll see what happens.テつ We'll see if I can get a couple of top‑10 finishes before the Open.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Can you elaborate more on when you came here to watch Lorena, how many days did you come, did you follow her 18 holes, did you meet her at the time?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Let's see, I'm trying to remember.テつ I came out here a couple of times to watch her.テつ I came out here, one of my friends who is also a‑‑ now she is playing at UCLA and we're best friends and she is of Mexican descent, so we came out to watch Lorena and following her with our banner, trying to catch up to her.
I think my dad had brought a newspaper article that they wrote on me from back home and he had Lorena sign it, which I thought it was weird, "Dad, why are you having Lorena sign my article?"テつ But it was funny!テつ Again, she is very humble, very outgoing, just super nice to everyone.
You know, that's the reason why I looked up to her, not just because she was a phenomenal golfer but what she did for the game of golf and for people like me of Hispanic descent.テつ Her and Nancy opened the door for me and I always thought if they can do it, I can definitely do it, too.

Q.テつ What years did you come?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I was 14 so 2004, 2005, around there.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, I definitely feel this.テつ I definitely feel like I can bring another crowd to the LPGA and just like Nancy and Lorena did for me, I do see a lot of younger girls in general just following the LPGA, which is what the LPGA is to bring more children and more females into the game of golf.テつ Obviously when I was younger it was hard for me to play golf, but nowadays it's so easy for young girls to pick up the game.
They're the future of this game so the more we bring them out it's going to be an all‑around good outcome for the LPGA.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Lizette, thank you for sharing your story and best of luck this weekend.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Thank you.テつ Thanks, guys.テつ

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