A Steady Ascension

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

June 4 2012, Katie Ann Robinson

If you want to be successful on the LPGA Tour, a player must possess a load of patience, dedication and passion for the game. For some, their climb to the LPGA came easily, while for others it was a timely process. 

But for Azahara Munoz, her ascension in her golf career has been moved at a perfectly steady pace.

The Spain native started her amateur career at 14 years old, clinching her first victory at the 2002 Spanish Amateur. She was successful in both Europe and the United States winning the 2004 Girls British Open Championship, 2009 British Ladies Amateur, 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur and was a member of the Europe’s Junior Solheim Cup teams in 2002, 2003, and 2005.

She earned a spot on the Arizona State University women’s golf roster in 2006 and led the Sun Devils to seven NCAA titles. She had First-Team All-Pac-10 honors all four years and became ASU’s ninth NCAA Individual Champion, defeating UCLA’s Tiffany Joh with a 25-foot putt for the win. Munoz managed to balance a solid golf career while also maintaining an impressive GPA, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in psychology.

Munoz turned pro just months after graduation and finished second in the first stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and earned her LPGA card in December that same year placing fifth in the final.

She was a model of consistency during her rookie campaign in 2010, posting two top-10 finishes and 10 additional top-25s. She had an overwhelming 313-point lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race and became the first Spaniard to win the award. She, however, didn’t realize it was such a prestigious award when she won.

“You know it’s funny, because I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, “ Munoz said. “And then when I won it all of the players were like congratulating me, and I was like well I guess it is a big deal, I didn’t know.

“It’s obviously such an honor. Back home, people kind of compare me to be like the rookie in like the NBA because we don’t have big sports back there, so it was pretty cool.” 

With this feat, she was a clear captain’s pick for the European Solhiem Cup Team, where she played a vital roll in securing the win for European girls. Munoz marked this experience as one of her favorites so far in her career.

“Solheim was for sure the best,” Munoz said. “We all got along really well and the atmosphere was great. Every day from the golf course to the hotel, it was like a 30-minute drive, we were singing the whole way. It was so much fun. And then obviously the way we won it too made it even better because we were expecting to lose in the end and I don’t know what happened, we won! It was great.”

Munoz has had a steady momentum rolling her through the past two years on Tour, but she was hungry for a win. With a tie for fourth at the LOTTE LPGA Championship in Hawaii, Munoz hoped she would soon get a taste of what it feels like in the winner’s circle.

With her impressive record in match play, Munoz was confident going into the Sybase Match Play Championship. She played through an emotional week, with the passing of her grandmother the Sunday before, but she stayed strong till the end to defeat Candie Kung 2&1 and clinched her first LPGA victory. Patience had finally paid off for the 24-year-old.

“Well, obviously it feels really nice, you know because we all practice hard and it’s really nice when you see results,” Munoz said. “You know the beginning of the season was a bit slow and I was working really hard in off season.  So I was kind of getting a little anxious because you know results weren’t coming, but they finally did, so I was really happy about that. It was tough though. I just tried to keep my emotions level all week, just tried to be in the present.”

Surprisingly, not many players have any pre-round rituals, but this Spaniard found a routine that eases her mind before a tournament begins.                                                  

“I have a few sentences written down on a piece of paper that I always carry around in my yardage book,” Munoz said. “I know them by memory now so I don’t have to read them anymore. They’re just quotes from a book that I read once, stuff that people told me or my coach told me that I really like. So I wrote them down and I always read them before I golf.”

Munoz has finally found her comfort on Tour, consistently placing in the top-5 in the past four tournaments. She’s coming off a tie for third at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. With a steady mind, consistent swing and big goals for the rest of the season, Munoz hopes her momentum will keep her in the spotlight.

Topics: Player Feature, Munoz, Azahara

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