EUGENE, Ore. (seminoles.com) — Karen Stupples, who earned All-America honors at Florida State in 1995 and who went on to enjoy a successful LPGA career, is in Eugene as a member of the Golf Channel broadcast crew covering the 2016 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships. She sat down with seminoles.com as the Florida State women’s golf team played in the second round of the championship and talked about her LPGA career, what she learned while she was a golfer at Florida State and her favorite golf-themed movie.
What was the highlight of your professional golf career?
“That’s a pretty easy one – it was winning the Women’s British Open in 2004 at Sunningdale. It’s a course that is probably the closest that I could have gotten to my hometown. I had busloads of people from my home area come out to watch me play. It was really nice walking up the 18th hole with a five shot lead and knowing, really, that the championship was all mine. I could really enjoy it and watch the flags being waved. That was really very cool.”
What’s the greatest thing about making a living playing golf on the LPGA Tour?
“The best thing about being on the LPGA Tour is being able to travel and see the world. Also being competitive – being able to play the game that I love and making money doing something that I love.”
Was becoming a professional golfer always an aspiration?
“It wasn’t, because I didn’t know if I was going to be good enough. For the longest time I didn’t know if I had what it took to be a professional golfer. But I figured I would just give it a go and see if I did have what it took. Fortuitously, I got my LPGA card on my first try. I don’t know if I had to do it a few times if I would have had the self-belief to have gone through and continued. But because I played so well in the pre-qualifying event that gave me enough confidence to get my card. It was really fun.”
Can you recall the specifics of the best round you played during your professional career?
“I’ve had a few. The easy answer would be to say the final round at Sunningdale where I started eagle-albatross. In all fairness, I think that my third round at Cherry Hills in the 2005 US Open was my best round. I had six consecutive birdies on a US Open course that was incredibly tight and the rough was really thick. I really feel that I didn’t have my best game yet I was able to get the ball around the golf course fairly well that day and put myself in a position to win – I didn’t – but I had a chance.”
What did it mean to represent your country in the Solheim Cup multiple times?
“That was amazing. To be part of a team and to play golf and to know the outcome of your team, the players you are caring about, might depend on you. It was a serious amount of pressure. But I had the most fun doing it. To feel nerves and adrenalin over every shot that you play is what it’s all about. And that’s what these girls will face (in the NCAA Championships) coming up, too.”
What’s your favorite golf movie?
“I like Tin Cup.”
If you could choose any three players to play a round with, who would they be?
“I would probably like to play with Babe Zaharias, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.”
Which course would you choose to play with the above mentioned foursome?
“I would want to play – we would go to the Old Course at St. Andrews.”
You now work for Golf Channel – How did that come about?
“I was lucky – I kind of fell into it. In 2007, I had the opportunity to work for BBC Radio just after the birth of my son so I wasn’t playing much golf. So I thought – why not – go ahead and work for BBC Radio Five Live at the Open Championship at Carnoustie. So I went and I had an absolute blast doing it. I loved the chat, the conversation and the debate that came about with the written reporters who were there from the various newspapers and magazines from all around the world. It was fun. I really had a good time talking about golf. So I had the opportunity to continue doing a little bit of that for the BBC — both for TV and for radio. Then as my career started to turn away from play and look towards something else, I was like ‘why not try and do media? Why not try and get into TV?’ I looked at my options and I asked myself where are my options? Golf Channel was a good option for me. How can I make that happen? How can I try and see if that works. I tagged along with a few of the commentators – a guy called Jerry Foltz – and watched what he said and what he did and told myself “I think I can do that’. Every week if I missed the cut I would hang around a see if I could do something, or watch and learn and one day the producer said to me – Karen we need a third on course. That was in Toledo a couple of years ago and off I went. I followed Inbee Park around and commentated on it after having 30 minutes of practice before I went out and the next thing I know I’m doing it.”
You were a star as a golfer as a Seminole. How did playing at Florida State help you become a professional golfer?
“I would say that coming out to Florida State was the biggest thing I could have ever done to forward my career. Firstly, it taught me how to live independently of my parents. I had to resolve my own issues. In those days there was no internet or computer. Even being in touch with your parents was an issue. It was always a collect phone call or something like that. So I had to learn to budget and live for myself and work with that. I had to be self-motivated. I had to make sure I went to practice and played well. Secondly, when I was a Florida State, I saw the LPGA. I saw the tournament played at Killearn (in Tallahassee) and I went down to Daytona and watched the title holders and I saw that LPGA golf was an opportunity that I could potentially have. Being at Florida State enabled me to practice – we had the facilities there that I was able to hit balls in practice. I had access to the best trainers that you could have. So I was getting fit, I was training and practicing, being competitive, travelling to tournaments where we were playing against the best players in America and that’s really what helped. All of those things added together accumulated to help me evolve into this. Without my experiences at Florida State I wouldn’t be here.”
What advice would you give to current Seminoles who want to follow in your footsteps and make professional golf their career?
“I would say this – there is a trend now for turning pro very early and not going to college. I would say go to college, learn to live independently, learn to be in charge of you own game, make sure you can look after your swing when you have to on the golf course on your own, become self-reliant and work really hard. Because that’s what it takes. It’s a lot of hard work. You’ve got to be prepared to sacrifice. If you want to play professional golf you will have to give up something in order to do so. That’s just a fact of life. Be prepared for that sacrifice, be driven, be motivated and have a lot of belief in yourself.”
What’s the most important thing you learned at Florida State – away from the golf course?
“Friendship and family. Florida State brought me both. Florida State was my family away from home and the people there looked after me in that way.”