Dec. 14, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Katelyn Dambaugh could have given up her final season of eligibility with the South Carolina women’s golf team to play professionally after a great showing at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament earlier this month in Daytona Beach, Fla. Instead, the All-American chose to come back and take care of unfinished business as a Gamecock.
“I’ve been really committed to my team, to my coaches, and to this university,” Dambaugh said. “Everyone here has meant so much to me. I committed here for four years, and I wanted to fulfill that commitment because I feel like I owed them that. I know that the team we have here can really do something special if we play our best. Anything can happen this spring, so I don’t want to miss out on these experiences with my team and my coach.
“I originally committed here about 95% because of (head coach) Kalen (Anderson). We just had a good connection from the start. With (associate head coach) Puggy (Blackmon) with us, he knows what needs to be done. So that’s why I knew this was the best place for me to be from the start. They’ve meant so much to me.”
In addition to her team, Dambaugh is committed to completing her degree in Sport and Entertainment Management.
“It’s been three and a half years, and I think it would be a waste not to finish it the last semester that I’m here,” Dambaugh said. “I really want to finish school and get my degree. That’s something that has always been very important to me.”
“The overall experience I’ve had here has been just amazing. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.”
The Gamecocks advanced to match play at the NCAA Championships last year for the first time in school history after winning its second straight NCAA Regional title. Weighing her options, Dambaugh said she made up her mind before going to the LPGA qualifier.
“I spoke with Kalen a couple of times, and we were pretty much on the same page,” Dambaugh said. “The decision I made was the plan from the get-go. I made my mind up before I got there that I was coming back. It was a difficult decision.”
Dambaugh finished tied for 35th at LPGA International with a five-round mark of 361 (+1) to earn a partial LPGA Tour card, which is awarded to those finishing inside the top 45 of the 157 player field. The top-20 finishers at LPGA International received full LPGA Tour cards. Dambaugh had opened with a five-under par round of 67 to lead the field, and followed that up with a one-under par 71 on day two.
I just want to help my team do the best we can, because I think this team can do something really big... I have no second thoughts.
“I played pretty well, especially with it being my first time out there,” Dambaugh said. “I was just trying to get the experience and see what it was like. I think it was pretty good overall, and obviously I could have done better the last two days, but I took a lot of positives from it.”
Playing five rounds in five days was a bit more than what she’s accustomed to from college tournaments, but Dambaugh said she wasn’t nervous.
“I’m used to playing a lot, so that wasn’t too tough,” Dambaugh said. “I’ve played in the U.S. Amateur Tournament a few times, and those can last a while. When I got back to Columbia though, I could tell that I was mentally exhausted. Coming back to school is going to help me the next time I’m in that situation.”
Although she had already made a decision, seeing several other current collegiate student-athletes earn their LGPA Tour card and decide to leave school certainly weighed on her mind.
“I’m the only amateur that earned it, (LPGA Tour Card) who didn’t take it,” Dambaugh said. “I mean, seeing my name on the leaderboard after the first two or three days got into my head. So obviously I need to work on that part of my game because I let that get into my head a little bit. Of course there were some second guesses, but Coach (Kalen Anderson), my parents and a few other people I spoke to, reassured me that I did the right thing.”
Now that she’s back at South Carolina for her final season where she is the Gamecocks’ all-time leader in career stroke average, Dambaugh is excited to get back to work and continue improving.
“I just want to continue the good year we’ve had going back to last year and the fall semester,” Dambaugh said. “Mentally, I still have a little ways to go. Both Kalen and Puggy can help me with that. I just want to help my team do the best we can, because I think this team can do something really big. I’m excited to see what that is. I have no second thoughts.”
Dambaugh and the Gamecocks closed their fall with two-straight top-five finishes, including a win at the 2016 Landfall Tradition. Carolina opens its spring season at the 2017 FSU Match-Up, set for Feb. 10-12 at the Don Veller Course in Tallahassee, Fla.
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