WILLIAMSBURG, Va - Elsa Diaz, who turned professional on Friday after graduating from the University of Richmond a week ago, will make her first LPGA start at the Kingsmill Championship. It’s only a 50-mile trek from where she went to college.
It’s a surreal feeling for the San Antonio native, who won once as a senior and posted six-career top 10s in college. She was driving to the course over the weekend with her father, Adolfo, who doubles as her swing coach, and they looked at each other in amazement.
“I was like ‘can you believe it? Are we playing in an LPGA tournament?'” Diaz detailed at her press conference on Tuesday. “It still doesn’t feel real.”
Diaz is no stranger to rubbing elbows with elite professional athletes.
Bruce Bowen, a 3-time NBA champion, is a close family friend. She spent time picking Rory McIlroy’s brain one day at her house. PGA TOUR winner Robert Wrenn is a mentor. Her sister once played golf with Tom Watson. She shot a commercial back in the day with Jack Nicklaus.
But the charismatic and engaging rookie-to-be was still in awe walking through the clubhouse at Kingsmill Resort on Monday.
Spotted: Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis.
“I did a double take when I saw Michelle Wie walk through the clubhouse,” Diaz admitted. “I’m pretty starstruck to see these players. The chance to practice and play next to them is a big honor.”
The most important lesson she learned from McIlroy will apply this week. She asked him what happened at The Masters and his answer resonated.
“I was trying to be somebody that I wasn’t,” McIlroy explained to Diaz about not performing at his peak on Sunday at Augusta.
When she first got on the range this week, she began to “pretend” to be the stars that lined up beside her. Then, she realized how flawed the approach was.
“We started just working on what we always do,” explained Diaz. “I think that got my mindset to being like we’re just practicing at home. I remember that Tom Watson told my sister things like don’t forget to smell the flowers while you’re there. They are just people like us.”
Diaz hopes to play well enough to tee it up on the weekend, and she plans to pursue other playing opportunities on the LPGA and Symetra Tours before heading to LPGA Qualifying Tournament in August.
Ultimately, she just wants to enjoy her first LPGA experience.
“They say your first LPGA event is the one you’ll never forget,” said the always-smiling Diaz. “The fact that it is so close to Richmond, I think it’s going to be the best event I’ll ever play because of the whole community I have here.”
One day she’ll be able to recount this week as if she has photographic memory, like she recalls the moment she knew the LPGA was the dream. She was on the 10th hole at Pebble Beach as a 15-year-old playing in the First Tee Pebble Beach Open.
“I looked out to the water and said ‘this is it.’ I knew this is what I wanted to do,” explained Diaz about the tournament that combines Champions Tour players and juniors. “We were kids and we got to do interviews with Golf Channel and little kids were asking us for our autographs.”
Here’s to making new memories this weekend and signing a ton more autographs.