Saturday, January 28, 2017

Karen Stupples

I am kicking off, what I hope to be a serious of Q&A’s with current and former LPGA players for my blog.  As I recently told a friend of mine, I wish women’s golf was more mainstream than it currently is.  I told him I wish the media would talk more about the LPGA players, do more features, etc.  Then I started thinking, shame on me for not making much of an effort to research them myself, especially considering we have FOUR daughters!!  
Below is the first Q&A with former LPGA player and current Golf Channel Analysis Karen Stupples.  Karen played on the LPGA tour from 1999 until just recently retiring and opting for a career in broadcasting.  Her playing career was very impressive, notching 2 wins on both the LPGA tour and the European Ladies tour.  The playing highlight of her career came in 2004 when she won a MAJOR, the Women’s British Open.  She started the final round eagle, double eagle (that’s 5 red thru 2 holes thank you very much) and rolled to a 5 shot victory.  She still holds the lowest aggregate and to par score along with Karrie Webb for that tournament.  Her other LPGA win came that same year, and in similar fashion she mowed down the field and sailed to a 5 shot victory.  Safe to say, when Karen sniffed blood it was pretty much game over.  She represented Europe twice in the Solheim Cup.  Karen didn’t have enough money to give professional golf a go right away so she went to work as a waitress.  Turns out a regular customer wanted to sponsor her for three years and this helped kick start her career.  Pretty cool story that a restaurant customer helped her become a major champion winner!  You can now see Karen all over the Golf Channel.  She does LPGA tournaments, Morning Drive appearances, School of Golf, Golf Central, and probably will be perched in the directors chair before long!  Thanks Karen for taking the time to answer my crazy questions.

1.Favorite movie?
I have some go to movies.  They are: Love Actually,  the Shawshank Redemption, and V for Vendetta.  That being said I like a lot of Marvel and Sci-fi.

2.I read that you were going to study polymer science, can you explain? 
I had been accepted to go to Loughborough university in the U.K. to study Polymer Science.  I was quite a nerd at school and enjoyed science, primarily chemistry and biology.  I don't do well with the sight of blood so opted for the plastic version, but my plans changed and I decided on going to University in America to help with my golf.  As it turned out it was the best decision I could have made.  I saw the LPGA when I was at FSU and realized I wanted to play against the best and that there was a living to be made out of pro golf.

3.Growing up playing golf in England as a female was it a challenge?
The courses that I played in England were great, but they were right next door to a men's only club.  I was often invited to play but always declined.  The biggest thing I faced as a junior girl playing golf was fitting in; the ladies were jealous that I had a tendency to win their competitions.  I actually joined another club because of this.  Most junior golfers were boys so I didn't fit in there either,  I tried and it's probably why I hit the ball a decent distance, but it's always awkward.  Luckily for me golf isn't a team sport so I spent hours on my own hitting balls or putting. I got very comfortable with being on my own.

4.Looking at your career finishes its fairly apparent that when you sniffed the lead you put the hammer down.  Is this some thing that is built in or learned?
This is a tough question,  I think the answer for me is both.  I have an aggressive nature and won't ever let up--I'm very determined--but I came close to winning before I finally won in Tucson.  The thing that changed for me was realizing that what I had was enough to win.  My game was good enough, I just needed to play my game--not force it--and don't think about the other competitors; realizing I had no control over anyone else just my own mental game.

5.Not sure many know your journey into professional golf.  Can you tell me a little about the beginning, specifically how a customer at a restaurant ended up sponsoring you?
My family are hard working but have never had any extra money to spend, so I worked.  I had a job from the age of 13 just so I could have a little money in my pocket to take to the course.  This didn't change as I got older.  When I left college after 3 years I went back to the U.K. and started working at a golf course behind the bar and waitressing in its restaurant.  I was trying to save up enough money to go to q school.  I had asked some wealthy friends if they would help me but they decided they wouldn't so I went about the task of saving.  Then one day I was waitressing and a group of 4 came in and sat at my table.  They were regulars and I always waited on them.  This day one of them, Keith Rawlings, asked why I hadn't turned pro.  He said he had seen my results in the local paper and thought that I should be giving it a go.  I said I was saving up the money to do just that..  When I was clearing their table, Keith said to me that he would like to give me the money to try and that if I wrote out a budget for everything I needed he would help.  I was floored so much so his wife had to back him up and say, "We mean it.  Please come to our office tomorrow and we will get the ball rolling."  Needless to say I wrote my budget and took it to Keith.  He said it looked good and he promised to help for 3 years just in case I didn't get my card the first time. He didn't want to put any pressure on me.  I got my card first time and Keith and Sue Rawlings were able to watch me win the Women's British Open.  To this day, and combined with my parents there, it was the highlight of my career and my proudest moment.

6.You get only one car to drive the rest of your life what brand and model are you picking?
I'm not fussy with cars I would like new with leather seats and quick off the mark…

7.Your house is burning down and you can only grab one thing to save (pets and kids are safe) what are you dragging out?
My purse, as it would have my driving license, credit card, and phone in. 

8.Biggest challenge of doing TV for a living?
Biggest challenge for me is doing Interviews.  As a former player your so used to answering them and not thinking about what to ask. Sometimes hard questions have to be asked and that's tough as I know what the player is thinking as Im asking them.  No player wants to be reminded of their mistakes.

9.Favorite course in the world? 
Sunningdale.  Winning the British Open there is a big part of it, but I love the design and beauty of the course.  It's always in great shape which I think most pros value more than the design.

10.Best player you have ever played with, male or female?
I have been lucky to play with the best in the women's game. Annika, Lorena, Yani, Beth Daniel, InBee, Lydia, Nancy Lopez, and Meg Mallon.  I've also played with Lake Nona pros.  It's hard to pin it down to one best player as they all played/play the game differently. My favorites to play with were Lorena and Meg.

11.Give me your thoughts on how the LPGA does the HOF compared to the PGA Tour?
There really is only one HOF now but the LPGA continues to keep its 27 point HOF club.  It's a tough one to get into because of the amount of points and the requirement to play 10 seasons on the tour.  1 point for a win, 1 for POY, 1 for Vare trophy, and 2 for a major.  Lorena Ochoa made the point requirement but not the 10 years. She retired early to start a family.  This would be the one bit I would change.  If your good enough to get the points then the speed you do it shouldn't matter.

12.What do you think would be the hardest thing to give up on right now in your life? (meaning something like coffee, smoking(not that you smoke), drinking, etc)
As much as I love coffee I still feel I could give it up.. I do have a soft spot for sweets but again i could give them up too.  

13.Give me a few songs that you have on your play list?
 I have quite the variety on my play list.  I have Deirks Bentley--Black (country), Sia--The Greatest (pop).  I also like dance music for work outs. me a few songs you have on your music list?  I have little clue about music so you may need to explain the type of music it is.

14.Whom did you admire the most when you were playing?
When I played I admired Annika because she didn't make any mistake but I really liked the way Meg Mallon went about her business.  She was always great to play with and gracious to the volunteers and spectators.  Today I admire the young players, Lexi, Lydia, and Brooke as they take the same principles I liked in Meg and are doing it at such a young age.

15.You win the 2004 British Open, was that out of the blue or at the time were you playing well and on the verge of something spectacular?  
When I won the British Open I was playing really well. I had already won in Tucson and had been fairly close in a few other event; in particular the week before in Evian. I finished 4th but I played in the last group on Sunday.  My confidence was high and I had a great game plan in place for Sunningdale. 

16.It is one of my goals to see if the ‘coaching/instruction’ part of golf can start to use LPGA players as examples for average golfers, as they have similar swing speeds and distances the ball travels.  I never have understood why a coach would tell a 12 handicapper ‘these are the numbers for Rory and these are your numbers.’  Not that LPGA players are less talented more their swing speeds, ball speeds, etc are similar.  I’m a scratch, and my trackman numbers line up closer to the top LPGA players.  How can I get this movement going?
In my opinion that's a hard one.  Most guys want to see how they stack up to the men. They don't want to be compared to women, it's almost like an insult to them. Most would equate being stronger to hitting it farther.  This isn't true--as you know.  I watched Brian Urlacher and Mark Mulder play in the Diamond Resorts Invitational.  I would bet Brian could bench more than Mark but Mark hit it miles further then Brian.  If you can relate it in these terms then you might have a chance.  I think the bigger the golf fan the more chance you have of showing them the stats and them understanding that the LPGA pros are not your average lady member.  They are athletic and get the most out of their games. 

17.Tell me something from behind the scenes at Golf Channel that us fans don’t see during a tournament broadcast that is a hard part of the job?  Because all we see is you getting to sit in the booth and talk golf which looks glamorous but I know it’s extremely hard and taxing work.
I wouldn't call it hard and taxing as I love my job and anytime you do something you love, it never seems like work.  I think the hardest part for me is being efficient with my words. You only get a short amount of time to say what you need to explain before the producer wants to move to another shot.  There is a bit of pressure when they are telling you to wrap in your ear while your trying to finish your thought.  when I'm on the ground as a walker calling tape shots, it's hard. I might be on the green looking at the players putts and the producer is just showing the shot to the green. You have to take your cues from the tower announcer and producer that will give you contact for the shot.  You have to keep in mind how the tower announcer sets the taped shot up, i.e. "A moment ago," means I can't pretend it's live. So have to call it like I know the outcome.  Other things to keep in mind when calling taped shots is I can't open my mic to call the taped shot if I am around gallery noise as it would be bad watching a shot for a player which is supposed to be quiet and then as I open my mic to talk the gallery claps.. it's basically being aware.

18.Summer or winter person?
I hate being cold so love the summer. At the same time I love snow.  I don't see it much so maybe that's why I'm fascinated by it

19.You can pick ONLY ONE place in the world to eat your last meal, where is it located and what are you ordering?
Sushi at our home on our boat dock over looking the lake.

20.Do you think now that you are ‘retired’ the rust will be so heavy that when we play the day after the Portland Classic this year that it will be a lay up for me to beat you?
The rust kicks in on day 2 for me... so as long as I don't play before our match I will be just fine... I'm in training for it now... absolutely no practice at all.

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