Sept. 29, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Katelyn Dambaugh is really good at golf. The South Carolina All-American senior from Goose Creek, S.C., is actually pretty good at a lot of sports, but there's one thing she wishes she could do better.
“I wish I could sing,” Dambaugh laughed. “I try so hard. I love to sing, but no one else loves it when I try to sing.”
She’s not afraid to admit she is a fan of Justin Bieber’s music, but if she had her choice to play a round of golf with anyone in the world, the “Biebs” wasn’t the first one on her list. Although he would make the cut.
“Phil Mickelson would be one for sure,” Dambaugh said. “I love his attitude on the golf course. He is always so happy. There is also a guy named (United States Air Force Major) David Gray. He was a family friend who was killed in Afghanistan.
“The other person is Marcus Clark. He was a great friend of mine from home who suddenly passed away my freshman year.”
Dambaugh started playing golf at the age of six and started playing tournaments a couple of years later.
“I don’t know what made me like it so much,” Dambaugh said. “My parents played for fun, and I just went out and played with them. I guess I was good at it because they kept taking me. I love how (college) golf can be about the individual and the team at the same time. I love team sports, but I also love that I have an individual role.
“When I become a professional, it will be OK because I will be playing for a living. I’m excited about that because I will travel all over the world which make it even more interesting and fun.”
Dambaugh took home medalist honors at the 2016 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional while helping lead the Gamecocks to the NCAA Championships last spring. She is a two-time All-American and earned First Team All-SEC honors last year. She also holds South Carolina’s career stroke average record of 72.96 and is second all-time in career top five finishes (10) and is tied for fifth in career top-10 finishes. She is quick to thank head coach Kalen Anderson and associate head coach Puggy Blackmon for her development, on and off the course.
“The coaches, Kalen and Puggy, are awesome,” Dambaugh said. “Kalen is 90 percent of the reason I came to this school. She just understands me as a person, and I trust her so much. We clicked automatically, and I knew this is a place that could get me where I am and where I want to go. It’s the same with Puggy. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Coach does a lot of things to really make it fun for us. You can never get bored on this team; that’s for sure.
After the NCAA Tournament last spring, Dambaugh took a break from golf for a couple of weeks before embarking on what was an outstanding summer on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Tour. In July, she finished as the runner-up at the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. A month later, she played in the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in Springfield, Pa., advancing to the round of 16 in the match play event after two days of stroke play where the field was cut down to 64 players.
“I think the rest helped me because my body and my mind were in much need of it,” Dambaugh said. “Those are really big tournaments, so to get back into that competitive mode before I came back to school was helpful in getting back to the mindset I had when I left.”
As she returned to school she got some more work in before her fall season began with the Gamecocks as she was one of three players competing for Team USA in Rivera Maya, Mexico, at the 27th Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, helping the Americans finish sixth overall in the 55 team field.
“It was a tremendous honor,” Dambaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to do something like that and represent my country. It’s hard to describe the feeling that it gives you. It’s something I will never forget. I got chills when I first got my USA golf bag. When I put on the red, white and blue outfit for the first time, it was the most amazing feeling a person could have.”
Dambaugh’s 71.62 stroke average last year ranked second in NCAA Division I and stood as the lowest single-season mark for a South Carolina golfer, and her play certainly helped the Gamecocks reach Match Play at the NCAA Championships for the first time. Now playing her final year of collegiate golf, she would be happy for a repeat performance.
“My goal is do exactly what I did last year, or better,” Dambaugh said. “I had a really, really good year last year. Our team was awesome.”
Dambaugh is off to a good start after carding a school record 64 (-8) in the opening round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Tournament as the Gamecocks registered a school record team score for 54 holes to open up the fall season. She is listed at No. 11 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, and a promising professional career certainly awaits her after she graduates next spring with a degree in sport and entertainment management. For now, she is just focused on being a Gamecock.
“I have a lot of school left this year, and a lot of golf, so I just let my coaches handle all of that right now,” Dambaugh said about any inquiries that come in about professional golf. “I’m trying not to focus on anything but school and South Carolina golf right now.”
Like the child of six who played for the enjoyment of the game, Dambaugh is still having fun on the links.
“There are times when I get tired, and my body tells me to slow down for a couple of days,” Dambaugh said. “It’s still fun though, especially here at school. Coach (Kalen Anderson) does a lot of things to really make it fun for us. You can never get bored on this team; that’s for sure.”
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