March 28, 2017
South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh is looking forward to competing in her first LPGA event later this week. While she said she’s not too concerned about her ability to compete, it’s the cross country flight that is making her a little nervous.
“I’m nervous about the plane ride out to California because I don’t like airplanes,” Dambaugh said. “I had a bad experience when I was 14 or 15. I flew by myself. The plane hit an air pocket and dropped an incredible amount. Everyone was screaming and freaking out. Then the same plane ran out of gas. So once I get there I’ll be excited.”
Dambaugh has already put together one of the finest collegiate careers in the history of the South Carolina women’s golf program, and the All-American will compete as an amateur alongside the best professionals in the world at the 2017 ANA Inspiration, the tour’s first major of the season Thursday, March 30, through Sunday April 2 at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course of Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“I’m excited to get the experience and to see that golf course because it looks amazing,” Dambaugh said. “It’s going to be so different than college. At LPGA events, everything that you need is there. I’m going to see so many things. I’m just going try and go out there with the same mentality I have here at school. I’m going to try to take it all in and enjoy the experience.”
Dambaugh found out she would be playing in the event right before she was set to compete with the Gamecocks at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Tournament in Hilton Head earlier this month.
“I found out while I was warming up at the golf course,” Dambaugh said. “My swing coach from back home told me to check my email. I saw it and thought, ‘oh my gosh, this is awesome!’ I had the biggest smile on my face. The fact that this is a major is a big deal to me.”
Coach Kalen Anderson has really helped me a lot over the years to get prepared for what’s next.Katelyn Dambaugh
This was the first time that Dambaugh had applied to the LPGA for an exemption, sending her golf resume for officials to consider. Competing as an amateur, she would not be eligible for any prize money, but that’s just fine with her.
“I’d get zero if I won,” Dambaugh laughed. “I’d get to jump in the pond at the end, but I’d get nothing else. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Dambaugh, who is South Carolina’s career stroke average leader (72.65), is one of just six amateurs invited to compete in the tournament. The Goose Creek, S.C., native is currently No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and she said that her experience of playing for the Gamecocks has helped her get to this point.
“We play such strong fields all the time,” Dambaugh said. “It has prepared me for what I’m about to do. I don’t know if there is anything that can totally prepare you for your first professional event when it’s an LPGA major, but Coach Kalen Anderson has really helped me a lot over the years to get prepared for what’s next. She has talked to me a lot about what I am going to do after school. She has been a really big help. The coaches have given me so much good advice. She’s always said to go out there and have fun.”
Dambaugh produced one of the best seasons in program history last year en route to First-Team All-America honors, and she was the runner up for prestigious 2016 ANNIKA Award while posting a school single season record with a 71.62 stroke average.
She picked up where she left off this season after carding the lowest 18-hole (64) and 54-hole (206) scores ever by a Gamecock last fall.
Dambaugh may not like plane rides, but if her professional career takes off like her college career has, she may have a lot of long flights in her future.