By, Vince Menon
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - True freshman Kaci McCartan (KM) has grown and improved tremendously as the 2012 season has progressed, and she has established herself as one the most promising rising stars on the Santa Clara University women's golf team. McCartan was instrumental in the team's breakout performance in the 2012 Wyoming Cowgirl Classic at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz. as she converted 16 pars while helping the team post a season-low round of 300 in final round of play. With the WCC Championships set to begin on Monday, www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) asked McCartan about her rookie campaign, her favorite club and her family's extensive golfing background.
SCB: As a first-year collegiate golfer, how has the season been for you so far? What have you thought of your game overall and how have you adjusted to collegiate play?
KM: In the beginning, I was very nervous. I had just recovered from mono, so I had not played 18 holes since the first week of August until I got to California with my family a few days before I had to report in the first week of September. Coach Kelly helped me a lot so I could get back to the level that I was at before I was sick, and she has continued to push me so I can begin to achieve success at the collegiate level.
SCB: You had a strong finishing round at the UCI Anteater Invitational, breaking into the 70s and finishing with a 78. What did you think of your play at the tournament, especially during that final round?
KM: Dove Canyon was an awesome course. It definitely demanded specific shots in order to be successful. The greens were really tough as well, but I think that tournament was a good display of all my hard work this year. Everything just seemed to start working. Not only was my physical game strong, but also my mental game was the best it has been all season, which has been something I have been working on. I think the final round was the most successful because I had the most fun since it was my birthday. My team had the UCI coach announce my birthday over the microphone and I think that was just the thing to ease the nerves and just play.
SCB: What are the biggest strengths of your game? How have you developed these strengths?
KM: The biggest strength of my game is the way I can think around a course. My dad really taught me the importance of playing a course with a plan. I feel very comfortable not having to hit a driver off of every hole or laying up way behind other girls in my group. I have also learned the key to "missing" it in the correct spot in order to score well.
SCB: What aspects of your game are you trying to work on and improve right now?
KM: Coach Kelly and I have been working a lot on my mental game this season, especially since we are playing in a lot of tournaments that have 36 holes the first day. These days are much more demanding for me mentally than physically. Coach writes in all of our yardage books, so we have reminders during the round of things we can think about. Mine always says something like "be relaxed" and "be aware but don't analyze" and "my game is strong." The Anteater Invitational was definitely my best mental performance since I have been here, and I know it can only get better.
SCB: Which club is your favorite? What is in your bag?
KM: My favorite club is my 4-iron. It has become my "go-to" club in my bag. If I ever need just a solid lay-up shot on a par 5 or a low punch under the trees, I always reach for my 4-iron. My bag is all Callaway clubs. I was fitted for them about a year ago and I am still excited about them because they are my first set I can call mine since all my other clubs have been hand-me-downs from my older brother, Kyle.
SCB: From a team perspective and as an individual, what are you expecting for the future of the program?
KM: I think this program has the potential to do big things. We are all just as driven as Coach Kelly to improve and to turn this into a top program. Just being a freshman, I am very excited to see how much we improve in just the years I am here.
SCB: You come from a golfing family, and have an older brother who is a senior golfer at Boston College. What role has your family had in your development as a golfer and how have they influenced you?
KM: My family has been everything in my development as a golfer. My dad taught my brother and I before we could even walk and he helped me develop all of my fundamentals. He also was always my partner for parent/child events and my caddy for so many tournaments. My mom has always been my biggest competition. Every round we play together, we are always really competitive trying to make each other better pressure players. Kyle was always my role model. He prepared me to compete at the higher levels. I just mimicked everything that he did – the way he practiced, how long he practiced, and how he played. I know I was very spoiled to be able to grow up in a golfing family that was able to spend every Sunday with each other playing, practicing, and bonding.
SCB: Do you have any relatives or close friends that have played at the professional level?
KM: Zach Johnson played college golf with my half brother at Drake and when the Drake golf team came to Dallas to practice at my home course, they used to stay at our house. I even remember being kicked out of my room for the week so some of them, including Zach, could stay there. Also, Cathy Marino who played on the LPGA Tour was Kyle's high school golf coach and a very good family friend.
SCB: What are your favorite courses to play here in the Bay Area thus far?
KM: I think all of the courses we have the privilege to play are amazing. Our home course Silver Creek Valley Country Club is always in good condition. Even though it is challenging, I think it is very fun to play every time. Having the opportunity to play CordeValle this year was exciting, especially since that was the place we had met Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate, Ben Crane, and other professionals earlier in the year.
SCB: What has been the biggest adjustment you've had to make this year? Has it been in your golf game or adapting to college life?
KM: My biggest adjustment would have to be not being able to practice at my home course. I lived less than two minutes from the course, and I could go practice whenever I wanted, whether it was for just a short 30 minutes or even all day long. Also, with anything new, it has taken me time to learn to balance all my opportunities that Santa Clara offers academically, socially, spiritually, and athletically.