Ask everyone in the field at Stage II of the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament who Holden Caulfield is, and you’ll likely get guesses ranging from Emma Caulfield’s brother to that dreamy guy on As the World Turns. But if you ask Alyaa Abdulghany, the recent University of Southern California graduate who was ranked 24th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking before turning pro, you’ll get a quizzical cock of the head and a polite but firm, “Are you kidding?” That’s because Abdulghany is a bibliophile who has read her hardback copy of Catcher in the Rye more than once.
“It's always a classic,” Abdulghany said of the J.D. Salinger masterpiece. “I love the storyline. The plot always catches me.”
The player from Malaysia who grew up in Newport Beach, California hopes to join a growing list of USC Trojans on the LPGA Tour. That list includes notables like Lizette Salas, Sophia Popov, Annie Park, Tiffany Chan and Muni He. Other Trojans vying to earn spots on the LPGA Tour are Abdulghany’s teammates Amelia Garvey and Gabi Ruffels.
“USC did an amazing job,” Abdulghany said. “The program has done so much for me in terms of exposure and traveling to different places, like finding what to do on different grasses and things like that, especially going out to Florida, knowing the conditions that I needed to play in and what I needed to practice. USC helped a lot in my preparation.”
That exposure must have worked. Abdulghany won the 2020 Women’s Australian Master of the Amateurs at Victoria Golf Club, one of Alister Mackenzie’s finest designs. She also finished fourth in the Canadian Women’s Amateur as well as making it to the semifinals of the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur before falling to eventual champion Rose Zhang.
“I feel like my class, especially the ones that have graduated with me, we've all been really strong players. And I think what makes us unique would be the fact that we have a lot of patience and we don't really give up, knowing how the conditions are going to be this week,” Abdulghany said. “We always have our ‘A’ game. I never doubt anything from these girls. It's good to be able to be playing with them in the field because I know they're always going to play their best.”
She might be one of many among Trojans at the top level of the game. But Abdulghany is virtually alone in her love of the printed word.
“I do like to read a lot,” she said. “I feel like I'm a really rare species in that sense. I love books. I love reading books. I love collecting and carrying books.”
No Kindle, no snippets on a phone. She follows the threads of a plot for 100,000 words in multiple sittings. In an age when the average attention span of a 20-something is measured in seconds instead of hours, Abdulghany’s obsession with bound books is a throwback.
“I'm a long way from being a collector,” she said. “There's a lot of books out there. Ideally in my dream house, I'd like to have a lot of books. My favorite author would be a Japanese author named Haruki Murakami. A lot of his works are translated already, but the way he approaches writing is very unique, and I like that.”
How did she pick up this unique love of bound literature?
“I don't know,” she said. “I've been trying to figure that out myself, too. I really don't know. I think back to all the times that I've read, and my very first book series was the Percy Jackson series, so I think that kind of brought me into like, oh, this is good, like reading is cool in a sense. I think getting started on a good series is what probably got me into reading.”