April 4, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. -
Any golfer will tell you the key to shooting lower scores is confidence and of course, a hot putter. For sophomore Kristina Wong, who posted her fifth straight top-10 finish over the weekend at the PING/ASU Invitational in Tempe, the two go hand-in-hand.
A mainstay at the top of Stanford's lineup since she arrived on The Farm as a freshman in 2009, the native of Binghamton, NY has quietly established herself as one of the top players in the ultra-competitive Pac-10 Conference. Since finishing tied for 24th at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational in early October, Wong has rattled off five consecutive top-10 finishes.
Her streak began at the inaugural Pac-10/SEC Challenge, held at Stanford Golf Course in early November, when she braved rainy conditions to finish tied for seventh in one of the fall's elite fields. She opened the spring schedule with a second place showing at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational, where she shot a 54-hole score of 214 (-2), finishing just two strokes behind medalist Isabelle Boineau of Arizona. She also contended for individual titles at the Peg Barnard and Bruin-Wave Invitationals, where she finished fourth.
This past weekend, Wong's final round 71 landed her in a tie for 10th place at the PING/ASU Invitational at the Karsten Course in Tempe, a venue the Cardinal will return to in a few weeks for the Pac-10 Championships.
A second team All-Pac-10 selection a year ago as a freshman, Wong played in all 11 events as a rookie and finished second on the team in stroke average behind fellow frosh Sally Watson. Even though she enjoyed three top-10 finishes last year, it was her 27th place showing at the NCAA Championships that served as a major confidence booster.
Wong closed with a final round five-under 67 in her first appearance at the NCAA Championships, which was the second lowest score of the season behind Watson's 66 in the same round.
Make no mistake about it, Wong brought serious game with her to The Farm, already having established herself as one of the top junior players in the nation. She was the co-medalist along with Stacy Lewis at the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur held at the Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. after rounds of 70 and 69. Lewis recently captured her first LPGA tournament victory - a major -- the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
In 2008, Wong advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.
In this edition of Teeing it Up, Kristina talks about her new-found confidence, her introduction to the game of golf and her expectations for the Stanford team as the Cardinal ready for the championship season.
Teeing it Up with Kristina Wong...
How much have you grown as a player from last year?
I've grown a lot as a player since my freshman year. Last year I was still trying to adjust to the college atmosphere but now I am more comfortable with my surroundings and I feel like I've become a more mature individual. As a result, my golf game has improved.
What did your final round at last year's NCAA Championships do for your confidence heading into this season?
My 66 on the final round of the NCAA's last year really boosted my confidence heading into this season. It showed me what I am capable of shooting and gave me faith that my hard work is paying off.
Looking ahead to this important stretch in the schedule, what are some the keys for Stanford to play well?
Heading into the spring season, it will be important for our team to go into each tournament believing that we are the team to beat. After months of long, vigorous practices with these girls, I feel like we are more ready than ever to step up and dominate. We just have to believe we can do it and have that confidence.
Best advice for a recreational golfer?
"It's all in the hips!" -- just kidding. I would say the key thing to remember is to make a smooth swing. Often times, recreational golfers will be too focused on hitting the ball as far as they can which leads to bad shots. Good, solid golf shots come from making a smooth and rhythmic swing.
What's the one part of your game you are always looking to improve?
Every part, always!
Binghamton Country Club in upstate New York.
Favorite course you have played?
Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Course you most want to play?
What are some of your earliest memories of playing golf?
I remember always heading out to the golf course after I was done with school and being really excited for my dad to finish work so I could play an afternoon round of golf with him. It was our daily routine and I loved being able to spend time with him every day. I think that is one of the main reasons why I began to love golf. It was something I could do with my dad and I loved spending those afternoons with him.
What's your most memorable round?
The final round of regionals last year was so amazing. We were in danger of not finishing high enough to qualify for the NCAA's until we started playing the back nine and suddenly something clicked and we all started making tons of birdies. I remember making a couple of birdies and being so excited and pumped up because of all the cheers for Stanford. We ended up finishing really well and made it back to the NCAA's. I have never been so proud to be apart of the Stanford women's golf team.
Who has had the most influence on your golfing career?
Definitely my parents. They've been there for me through it all. Through all the frustrations and hardships, my parents support me through everything, which helps keep me going.
Toughest hole at Stanford Golf Course?
I think one of the tougher holes at Stanford is No. 6. It is crucial to hit the fairway but from there, taking a conservative line to the center of the green is the best way to play that hole.
Who is the last person on the team you want to face in a putting match?
My fellow sophomore, Sally Watson. She drains everything!
Longest driver on the team?
Marissa Mar. Spend five minutes with her and you'll know why.
Favorite Caroline O'Connor saying?
What's your favorite practice routine?
I like working on a bunch of short game drills -- especially putting.
Tell us a little about your spring course load.
I have a pretty heavy load this quarter. I am taking three psychology classes.
Favorite spot on campus?
The Siebel Varsity Training Complex
What do you like to do away from golf?
I enjoy painting and sketching. I also like playing the piano and watching movies.
What's on your IPOD?
Everything from country to hip hop.
Anything my mom cooks