Lizette Salas Riding High in her Rookie Season

July 12 2012, Ward Clayton
Lizette Salas rode comfortably for 13 hours in her father’s red pickup truck last week, from Rogers, Ark., through St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee on up to Kohler, Wis., for the U.S. Women’s Open. The 2006 truck with 90,000-plus miles and the “USC DAD” license plate was driven by her father, Ramon, and carried Lizette and an 11-year-old niece from the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship to the women’s national championship as other players flew into Blackwolf Run. Her mother joined them from California by flying in before the U.S. Women’s Open began.

“We've had some great memories, laughed and shed tears in that truck; and I often slept in it,” Salas said. “It's been a good – it’s been a fun adventure, and just going to keep going and making more experiences.”

Salas’s week at the U.S. Women’s Open brought even more attention to her bubbly personality and story of overcoming great odds. She shared the first-round lead with a 69 and hung around the lead until a final-round 80 dropped her back into the pack. She was encouraged by her hero, Nancy Lopez, who watched some of Salas’s final round at Blackwolf Run.

In her rookie season on the LPGA, Salas is currently third in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings (behind So Yeon Ryu and Lexi Thompson). Salas has missed just one cut in 11 starts, finished T46 (Kraft Nabisco Championship), T25 (Wegmans LPGA) and T32 (U.S. Women’s Open) in the major championships and earned $99,629. Her best finish this season was a T22 at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

The cross-country drive was nothing new for the Salases. Ramon, who immigrated from Mexico nearly 30 years ago, has taken a leave of absence from his job as a mechanic at Azusa Greens Golf Course in Azusa, Calif., before, getting Lizette to professional events on the Symetra Tour last year – even a run from California to New York to Georgia and back home – before she reached the LPGA this year. They would frequently use rest stops to sleep and Ramon often served as his daughter’s caddie.

Lizette’s start in golf at age 7 is directly attributable to her father. He traded handyman work with the Azusa Greens professional to give Lizette lessons starting at age 7 because the family couldn’t afford the fee. That paid off as Lizette was an All-American at Southern Cal, earned a degree in Sociology in 2011 and then made the LPGA this year by birdieing the last hole of regulation play and advanced in a nine-player playoff at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament last fall.

The success hasn’t spoiled Lizette, however. The drive from Arkansas to Wisconsin was followed by a 2,000-mile return trip home to California where Lizette jokingly tweeted en route, “Are we there yet?!”

Topics: Stats and Stuff, Salas, Lizette

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