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Jan. 3, 2017


Home for Ana Pelaez is nearly 4,200 miles away, but the South Carolina freshman women’s golf student-athlete is avoiding the “yips” on and off the course. Pelaez came to South Carolina in August from Malaga, Spain, and has already become a nice fit for the 13th ranked Gamecocks.

“The coaches inspire confidence in me, and the weather is similar to where I live,” Pelaez said. “Those are the main reasons I decided to come here. I was a little bit nervous because English is not my first language, so that scared me. I’m not nervous anymore though.”

Pelaez studied English in school back in Spain before coming to college, but what she learned in the classroom and applying it to everyday life was a challenge.

“Classes were so hard at first because sometimes I wouldn’t understand what the professor said, and it would take me much longer to memorize it than people who know English,” Pelaez said. “I have tutors for each class, so that’s very good.”

In addition to overcoming the language barrier, Pelaez has had to adjust to a different culture.

“The food is different, and the schedule is so different,” Pelaez said. “For example, here, people eat (lunch) at 11 or 12 o’clock. In Spain, we have lunch at 2 p.m. I do miss my family, too.

“Here, football is the most important sport, and in Spain, it’s soccer. So that was kind of weird for me. The best part about being here is just everything. I’m happy with everyone and with everything I have, so I can’t just pick one thing.”

We’ve made some changes in my swing, and it’s working.

Ana Pelaez

Pelaez hasn’t had problems getting along with teammates, and having an older teammate from Spain, junior Ainhoa Olarra, has helped.

“I spend a lot of time with her,” Pelaez said. “When I came here, she told me not to be scared because there would be people who can help you. That made me feel more relaxed. With schoolwork, she could help explain things.”

As she settled in to the academic and cultural side of things, her golf game has shown promise. She came to South Carolina ranked No. 30 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and was the 2015 ANNIKA Invitational Europe Individual Champion. She also led her Spanish National Team to a European Girls’ Team Championship title in the Czech Republic in 2015.

As a Gamecock, Pelaez earned a spot in the lineup for two of the fall tournaments and carded South Carolina’s third best overall score in both. She helped the Gamecocks win the Landfall Tradition tournament to wrap up the fall season by finishing tied for 11th overall with rounds of 70, 74 and 71 for a one-under par 215. She is thankful for the efforts of head coach Kalen Anderson and associate head coach Puggy Blackmon in helping her find some early success.

“They’ve helped me with my swing,” Pelaez said. “We’ve made some changes in my swing, and it’s working. I hope it gets better before the spring season so I can have better scores.”

In her down time, Pelaez talks to her parents every day. Having gone to boarding school five hours from her home in Spain has made her accustomed to being on her own, but with nine teammates becoming a big part of her everyday life, she doesn’t get bored.

“I like to be with my teammates and maybe go to the cinema,” Pelaez said. “We all like to go to M Vista (restaurant). I cook for the teammates that live with me sometimes. Sometimes I cook them Spanish food to make it feel more ‘homey.’ “