April 18, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Ana Pelaez had a reputation as a fierce competitor before she teed off for the first time with South Carolina last fall. The freshman from Malaga, Spain, has already made a big impact for the Gamecocks, who are hoping for another great postseason run after reaching the match-play round of the NCAA Championships last year.
“I want for us to win the NCAAs, for sure,” Pelaez said. “That’s our dream.”
“She has so much passion and fire inside of her,” said head coach Kalen Anderson. “She’s the one out there who will be cheering her teammates on really hard. Seeing her fire and passion as a leader is something that really excited me when I recruited her. She wants to be great, and I really think she eventually could be one of the best players to come through our program.”
Pelaez has posted the top score in three of South Carolina’s tournaments this spring and opened the season with a pair of top-10 finishes after being tied for second at the Florida State University Match-Up and tied for ninth at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. Her 208 (-8) at the FSU Match-Up was the lowest 54-hole score by a Gamecock freshman in program history, and the sixth-best three-round total overall.
Pelaez’s early success is not a surprise as both she and her coach expected that she would be a factor in the lineup right away.
“To be honest, yes, I thought I could make an impact,” Pelaez laughed, as if embarrassed by her confidence. “I don’t know why, but I always felt like I could help my team. I hope I can still help them in these last tournaments.”
“She was one of the top players in the world as a junior player and has a lot of international experience,” Anderson added. “Her experience speaks volumes. I knew there would be an adjustment period, but I did think she would make an impact as a freshman. Early in her first semester, she had to have that adjustment time to get used to a new culture, the English language, school, and a new environment. Now she’s catching her stride and getting comfortable. I’ve really seen her grow a lot this semester.”
She has a phenomenal personality ...That spirited personality carries over into her game, too.
Pelaez is the only newcomer in the league to earn two SEC Freshman Golfer of the Week accolades this spring, and her 72.50 stroke average this season ranks third on the team. Getting through that adjustment period has helped her become more comfortable, on and off the golf course.
“I have confidence with my coaches,” Pelaez said. “I’m more adapted to the lifestyle here, and my golf is getting better day by day. I’ve improved my rhythm, and I know more about how to play courses now. I feel more like part of a team. Before, I didn’t know the girls really well, but it’s so much better now. I feel so comfortable with my team.
“I’ve experienced a lot of new things and met a lot of new people. I like being able to go to games like basketball, and since I came here, I like football now. I miss my family back home, for sure, and the food. The typical Spanish food is what I miss. I cook for myself, and I’ll cook Spanish food for my teammates.”
Even with her previous accolades, Pelaez has shown she is coachable, and the hard work with Anderson and associate head coach Puggy Blackmon has paid off.
“Golf is kind of hard because there are so many details,” Pelaez said. “I work with Puggy a lot. He is always there, and he makes things seem so much easier than they look. I worry a lot about technique, but the way he coaches me, he just makes it so much easier.”
Pelaez was also a quick study in understanding that collegiate golf is team sport.
“Sometimes when you play as an individual, you just depend on yourself,” Pelaez said. “When you’re playing with a team, you have to think about yourself and other people, too. Sometimes you get mad about how you are playing, and you just want to give up. You have to know that you’re not just playing for yourself; you’re playing for a team. So you can’t be selfish. Everyone wants to do well. My teammates and my coaches want me to do well, too.”
“She has a phenomenal personality,” Anderson said. “She is a fun, positive kid who loves to laugh and enjoy life. She is pleasure to be around. That spirited personality carries over into her game, too.”
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