Colombia’s Uribe making impact both on, off golf course
Mariajo Uribe is a name people in the golf world should take heed of.
The third-year pro from Colombia is beginning to come into her own on the LPGA Tour, and she has some big plans. Uribe, a two-time First Team All-American at UCLA, is fresh off back-to-back top-20 finishes in Hawaii and Alabama and is confident she can be a force for years to come.
Uribe, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, has four top-10 finishes in LPGA events, her first coming as an amateur at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. Now well-adjusted to the pro game and the life of a LPGA Tour professional, Uribe is ready to go.
“I feel really good,” said Uribe, who has $229,972 in career earnings. “I’ve gained experience, and that was the whole point of my first couple of years. I just wanted to come out here, see how it was and get used to it. Now, I feel more comfortable here, have more friends and feel like I’m getting better. I’m playing well, and I just want to take advantage of this year.”
For most new players on Tour, it takes a while to get adjusted to the week-in, week-out grind and to get a schedule that works for them. Uribe was no different.
“I think the hardest thing is just getting used to playing a lot of weeks in a row, practicing more and working out more,” she said. “You have to figure out what the right amount of practice and workouts are, because usually you’re playing really well the first week, but when the third week comes, you’re really tired.”
She also had to make some changes to her game in order to compete on a consistent basis with the best of the best.
“When I turned pro, I tried to gain more consistency,” Uribe said. “When you’re an amateur, I think you just try to hit it as hard and as far as you can. I’ve been working a lot on my putting, because out here, you have to make a lot of putts. I’m trying to get my average below 30 putts and am working on my speed, because I was struggling a lot with three-putts. It’s just small stuff that helps you out a lot.”
The 2011 season was a struggle for Uribe, who made just six of 14 cuts. She did win an unofficial LPGA event – the HSBC Brasil Cup – after finishing second in the tournament the year before, and that gave her some confidence.
But she entered the 2012 season with a low status, which served as motivation.
“I have conditional status, so my goal this year was to start strong,” said Uribe, who won three collegiate tournaments. “My top-10 (in Hawaii) definitely helped me, and hopefully I’ll keep playing well. I want to get in the top 40 so I can have a better status for the rest of the year.”
Uribe also feels confident this season because she has found a caddie, Andrew Techmeier, whom she feels fits her game and demeanor.
“Finding a caddie is also hard,” Uribe said. “(It’s hard to) find someone who fits your personality, but I feel like I’m in the right place right now. My first three years, I had three Tour caddies and then my coach caddied for me when I didn’t have a caddie. I finally found somebody that my personality fits with, and we work well together on the golf course. I’m really happy.”
Uribe doesn’t just work hard on the golf course. She started a foundation called FORE with her parents, Jorge and Carmen, and sister, Silvia, that helps children age 9-17 with after-school programs in her native Colombia.
The programs allow children places where they can do homework, obtain tutoring services, participate in sports and music and enjoy other extra-curricular activities. Uribe, who grew up speaking English and Spanish, felt the need to give back after being given opportunities to play golf in the United States in college.
“I was blessed,” said Uribe, who first visited the United States at age 15 for an AJGA program. “Coming from a country like Colombia, I had a lot of opportunities to come to the U.S. and play golf here. So, I really wanted to help other people have opportunities, too, because I think success is a lot about the opportunities you get.”
Uribe said that FORE is teaming up with Healing the Children’s New England chapter to send doctors and nurses to Colombia to perform cosmetic surgery on approximately 300 children who are in need.
Children are near and dear to Uribe’s heart, and she has plans on raising a family after her LPGA days are over.
“I want to have a family, so I’d like to maybe play for 10 years and then have my family then,” Uribe said. “I don’t really want to travel with kids, because I think it’s too hard on them and would be too hard on me to do that. My plan is just 10 years and to hopefully be No. 1 by then and then retire after accomplishing all of my goals as an athlete.”