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April 24, 2013

Lizette Salas


MODERATOR:テつ We'd like to welcome Lizette Salas into the interview room.テつ Lizette last week finished runner‑up in Hawaii and moved up to No. 22 in the Rolex Rankings.テつ Pretty competitive week for you.
First off, I know it wasn't the finish you wanted, but looking back at that week and the 62 on Sunday, what can you take from last week?テつ Have you been able to put it all in perspective of what happened out there?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, I was just in the zone on Sunday.テつ I just felt so confident, so comfortable in this position that I was in.テつ Even though it was 5 shots back, I just stayed present.テつ I was very dialed in on what kind of shot I wanted to hit.
You know, my caddie, Greg, does a really great job.テつ We work great together.テつ It was just a great learning experience just to be in that position and be more comfortable and learn a lot about myself.
You know, even though it wasn't the finish I wanted, it was still a great learning experience. テつTo be contending for the championship with Suzann Pettersen, with the top players in the world, that's something that I'm not used to.
But I'm getting the hang of it and getting much more comfortable being out there in that position.
MODERATOR:テつ We had Stacy in here earlier and I was asking her about you and some of the other young, top Americans that are coming up.テつ This is a Solheim Cup year.
But one of the things she said is that when people were asking her to watch out for before the year started she mentioned your name and said that she knew that you were in for a breakthrough year.
Considering how well you played last year in your first year on tour, what did you take from that and how much of that really helped you in getting off to‑‑ I mean, you've had a great start in your last four events:テつ Three Top 10s, including the runner‑up finish and the tie for fourth at Founders.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I finished on a good note last year and made a lot of changes right before the Asian swing.テつ I switched instructors, caddies, equipment, so it was a very big risk.
But at the end, I made a great decision.テつ Just I felt more like myself towards the end of the year last year.テつ Just tried to keep that momentum going to this year.テつ I didn't want to play with any expectations.テつ I just wanted to play my game.テつ I'm finally starting to see the results that I've been working on for six, seven months now.
I've established a great team around me that has allowed me to play golf.テつ I think it's because of them and establishing a good inner circle around me that's allowed me to play the golf I am now.
MODERATOR:テつ I don't know if everyone knows your story and what an amazing story it is.テつ When we talk about the American dream, you're kind of living it.テつ Your dad was a mechanic at a golf course.テつ Take us through, for people who aren't aware of your story, how you got involved in golf and the path you've taken to get here.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, my father is a head mechanic in a public golf course Azusa, California.テつ He's been working there for over 30 years.テつ I'm the youngest of three.テつ My parents are born and raised in Mexico.
I went to work with him one day.テつ I was seven years old.テつ The head pro wanted to teach me, but of course we didn't have that much money.
I didn't grow up with a parent who was a member at the a public golf course.テつ So my dad did favors in exchange for lessons.テつ We had no clue this would turn out to be the life that we have now.
Golf has changed our lives completely.テつ I just played locally as a kid, and it was very, very overwhelming at the beginning just because there is not a lot of Hispanic girls in my area that played golf.
It was something I was really good at and something that my family knew I had a talent for.テつ Even though it was off the goals of, you know, negativity, people having doubts about me, but that's what really kept me going.
My family is very supportive.テつ My dad has been a great part of it.テつ He used to be my caddie and we traveled on the road in his truck.テつ It was a little rough, but we look back at those times and that really has made us who we are.
We just make it happen regardless of the obstacle.
MODERATOR:テつ You grew up being a big fan of Nancy Lopez, and now she's a mentor to you.テつ What's it like to have someone of her stature, all that she's accomplished, be there to watch and support you ‑ and you now talk to her ‑ as someone you can always call and rely on?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, she just changed the game completely, not just for me, but for young golfers.テつ She reached out to me right before I started my career on the Symetra Tour.テつ It was a Georgia phone number and I was not going to answer it.テつ Turned out to be her.
I was very, very shocked, very star struck, just because of the status she had.テつ She's a Hall of Famers and someone I looked up to.テつ For her to reach out to an up‑and‑coming player, that just shows her character and how much she loves this game.
To have her watch me in Phoenix 18 holes, I really did not expect that.テつ After the round she gave me a putting tip on how to visualize better and how to look at the leaderboard and how to really bring out that fighter when it needs to come out.
We had dinner with her and she calls me every event, how I'm doing.テつ It's just an honor.テつ Now that I can say that Nancy Lopez is my friend and mentor, that means the world me.
MODERATOR:テつ Questions.

Q.テつ Were you able to play that course a lot at first when you were a young kid?テつ How soon were you looking at competitions?
MODERATOR:テつ When you started playing.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Oh, I had a lesson every week.テつ I started playing events probably when I was nine.テつ Ten years old I played it's called the FCPGA.テつ I only played like two years on the AJGA at the junior national level.テつ I was kind of a late bloomer because nobody in my area knew of the big national events.
But luckily I got a couple offers and I decided to do to USC.テつ And right off the bat we won the national championship in 2008 and I became the first four time all‑American there.
I think it's just because of the guidance I had there.テつ I was close to home.テつ I still had the support from my family, you know, the Latin community.テつ We're a very, very close, family unit.テつ The fact that I stayed close to home, we have that Trojan family.テつ Just my coach, Andrea Gaston, did such a great job of teaching me the ropes, and I had great teammates.
The fact that USC has the most players in the LPGA, that says a lot about the school, about our tradition.テつ So I'm just very fortunate to be a part of it.
But it was kind of rough at the beginning just knowing where to play and getting adapted to that new community that I was in.

Q.テつ What is your father's name, and has he been able to watch you or come out at times to watch you play?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, his name is Ramon, and last year he traveled with me.テつ I think he only missed two, three events.テつ He's here with me this week in Texas.
My mom was with me last week.テつ I think we've learned a routine.テつ It can definitely get lonely out here.テつ The fact that this is only my second year, yeah, I had a great first rookie, but I feel like I still need that family support with me.
I had a great outing, great fans came out at the Kraft Nabisco and the Kia Classic and in Phoenix.テつ If it wasn't for my parents following me and sacrificing everything, I wouldn't be here.

Q.テつ Was it hard to put a way the belly putter and switch to conventional?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ No, it was not hard at all.テつ It was just spur of the moment.テつ I just happened to walk past the TaylorMade bag and I looked at it.テつ I said, Is that a putter?テつ Hmmm, that looks okay.
So I pulled it out and looked at it and said, Can I hang on to it?テつ He's like, Yeah, go ahead.テつ I started rolling and I was like, Wow, this feels good.
I was thinking about letting the belly putter go.テつ I felt it was time for a change, and I felt that the normal putter would help me visualize better.
We tried it and I said, Greg, what do you think about switching to the short one?テつ He's like, Let's work on it during the Pro‑Am.テつ Made a couple good putts in the Pro‑Am and I was like, All right, let's do it.テつ It was very confident about it.テつ My dad had no idea that I was switching.
When I called and told him I switched, he was very happy.テつ He said, I been wanting to switch you back for a while.テつ But I felt like I needed to figure that out on my own.テつ So it's been back and I feel good about it.
MODERATOR:テつ I know we talked earlier about Solheim.テつ You've been continually moving up that list in terms of points this year with how well you've been playing.テつ What would it mean for you to make your first Solheim Cup team this year?テつ Was that something that you put in is as goal this year?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, definitely.テつ Just the way I finished last year, my rookie year, you know, that was one of my goals, to make the Solheim Cu this year‑‑ or it still is my goal.
I also know it's not going to be handed to me.テつ I know I'm going to have to work extremely hard, and at the same time stay patient.テつ The year is going to be so long.テつ I started the year sooner than last yeah, so I have to learn thousand pace myself.
It would just mean the world to me if I made Solheim.テつ I wasn't picked for Junior Solheim.テつ I was not picked for, what is it, the Curtis Cup, even though I was really working hard to get picked for those teams.
Just for me to work my way up the points and getting my name out there and just to represent the United States and wear that red, white, and blue, that would be the stamp of living the American dream for me and my family.
My family is like, Okay, let's go to Colorado.テつ I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it happen for them.テつ This is the journey, and it's a family journey.テつ I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.テつ I'm just getting goosebumps.
I've been getting a lot of positive feedback from current team members, so it's all been good.テつ I have to stay patient and I have to stay present and know that it's just one shot at a time.

Q.テつ With you being such a decorated college golfer, have the college players and the high school players, have they come up to you or have you heard they wanted to talk to you about going through the progressions of high school to college and college to the professional tours and that type of thing?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ No, none of them have come up to me.テつ I mean, I will answer any questions that they want.テつ I stayed all four.テつ I went through ups and downs throughout those four years.テつ I went through injuries.テつ I went through trying to graduate on time, winning the national championship, losing by one my junior year.
I truly believe that a player can mature a lot more if they stay in college for four years.テつ I made several mistakes, and I definitely know that it was better to for me to make those mistakes in college than on the LPGA because there is more at stake here.
I will gladly sit down with somebody and share my college experience with them or answer any questions, just because college was a very, very important time in my life.テつ It's made me the player I am today.

Q.テつ Do you think that agree of developing and maturity level is the kind of thing that can only be reached if you stay all four years?
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Yeah, definitely.テつ After my sophomore year I think I was the No. 1 player in college.テつ Someone asked me if I was going to leave?テつ I said, I am nowhere near ready game‑wise or mentally‑wise to be put out here and play week in and week out.
I was not ready.テつ Just learning how to balance studying and golf, that really helped me just mentality‑wise and just staying focused on certain things.
But I have no regrets on staying four years.テつ That was another thing with my coach at USC.テつ She really focused on graduating.テつ That was a big thing for her.
I think probably 80% of us that are now on tour, we graduated.テつ So that says a lot about our program.テつ I'm just a big believer in staying four years.

Q.テつ If you could, just take me through the course a little bit and tell me how it's playing and what you really need to look out for out there.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Jeez, none of us have ever seen this golf course before.テつ Obviously the wind is going to be a big factor.テつ Greens are big, so that's one positive side of this golf course, the greens are big.
We just have to miss it in the right place.テつ I think that's the key on this golf course.テつ The greens are rolling really pretty fast compared to Hawaii.
At the same time, we just have to really pick specific targets with this wind.テつ It just depends on the wind if the hole is going to play easier or difficult.テつ I think No. 9 yesterday was playing into the winds.テつ None of us reached it in two.
Hopefully the wind will change and make it a little bit easier on us.テつ Definitely the wind is going to be a factor here.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ I don't know.テつ It just depends on how the weather holds you up.テつ I know it's going to get warmer as the week goes on.
It's going to be a putting contest, just like every other golf tournament.テつ I don't know if 20‑under will be the number.テつ We're going to try to make it as interesting as possible.
But someone will go low most likely; someone always does.テつ So we'll see.テつ I'm hoping and guessing there will be a double‑digit under par.
MODERATOR:テつ Any more questions for Lizette?
Okay, thank you for joining us and best of luck this week.
LIZETTE SALAS:テつ Thank you.

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