An Interview With: Karen Stupples

RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, you know that Karen Stupples shot 69, and had 6 birdies in a row. She is the defending British Open women's open champion.

Karen, how do you feel going into tomorrow.

KAREN STUPPLES: I feel really excited. I have put myself in a great position and coming into this championship I really didn't know what to expect. I have played okay in my other U.S. Opens but never anything spectacular. So I really enjoyed the course, and I was just looking forward to playing. The whole week it seems like, as I said on the TV, now you play golf on a knife edge all the way around this golf. I am looking forward to it. It's another day to go and try to play the best golf that I can so I am excited.

RHONDA GLENN: Yesterday was your birthday. Did you do anything special to celebrate?

KAREN STUPPLES: No. I played a good round of golf. I had some nice bounces, made some nice putts and by the time it was all said and done with the rain delay and everything, I was just pleased to have a nice dinner. And I had Japanese last night and they made me these -- they came they said "happy birthday" with a little cake thing, with the candles. But other than that that's all I have done.

Spoke to my parents. That's always very nice.

Q. Would you go over your six birdies in a row shot by shot?

KAREN STUPPLES: Sure. Started at 9. 3-wood off the tee and 7-iron onto the green to about 20 feet. Made that putt.

10, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, was in the left semi-rough, hit a wedge onto the green, to about 5 feet. Made that one.

The par 5, I hit good drive, then I pulled a 5-wood into the left green side bunker. I hit a really good bunker shot out to about six feet. Made that putt.

The par 3, I hit a 6-iron and again I had about a eight-foot putt.

The next hole I had a 3-wood off the tee. That went miles. It went like 280 yards into the left bunker and had a 52 degree wedge to five feet, made that.

14, very pleased with 14. I hit a good drive and a 7-iron to, like again, it was about 7 feet, made that.

I should have made the one on the next hole, too, but I wimped out.

Next hole it was about 10 feet.

RHONDA GLENN: Bunker shot on 11, how long.

KAREN STUPPLES: That was, oh, 20 yards, 25 yards.

Q. You see these birdies coming, bogeyed two in a row.

KAREN STUPPLES: Absolutely. The bogey I guess can come very quickly out here and I had to try and maintain my patience because I was 3 over par, but I knew I hadn't made any birdies yet, and I know that I am capable of at least somewhere between two and five birdies a round. And, you know, I knew that if nothing else went wrong, I made at the very worse two birdies, I was only going to be one under.

Around this golf course I still didn't think that was going to be too bad. I stayed patient early. I got a good swing thought in my head, started hitting some good quality golf shots out there. Amazing when you start hitting good golf shots how everything else seems to fall into place.

Q. You mentioned in the flash area that you really don't have that much U.S. Open experience than Wie and Morgan Pressel. Don't all those years, double the years as they have, don't those count for something?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think it does. All fairness, I have played on Tour now for six years and I have had some good amateur competitions as well. I played in two Curtis Cups, so I generally feel like I like the big tournaments and the big day. It's part of why I play golf. I enjoy that moment and the feeling, the not being in control almost. It's quite a wild ride.

I like that and yes, I do have that experience, but a lot of these girls, I mean they are so young they are fearless, whether that compensates for age, I don't know. I think it will be a very, very interesting day tomorrow, though.

Q. Did you see this coming at all? You did not come in here real hot, are you at all puzzled how you caught fire?

KAREN STUPPLES: I have been saying for the last probably four weeks that I am really close to playing good golf but for some reason something would happen, nothing would really quite go my way. It was kind of a bit -- was giving myself a sob story, really, and you know, once I did -- got my head up and started thinking more positively about it, started to make some good positive moves around the golf course and certainly these last couple of weeks I felt really close to playing well.

The LPGA Championship I felt really close. Last week in Rochester I hit some great golf shots, some really good putts. I could just feel it all slowly coming together. So I mean, it couldn't happen at a better moment really. Unlike last year with the British Open, I knew that I was playing well regardless, I mean, I was hitting the ball great, playing fantastic, and I felt like I was going to have a good week anyway.

This week I was very nervous because I didn't know how it was going to turn out.

Q. Where does that put your confidence level that you can hold that together for another day and keep doing what you are doing? Do you have enough good shots in the memory banks?

KAREN STUPPLES: Absolutely. I think with what I proved to myself today was that I managed to turn a bad start into a good round and with a good swing thought and I am fully confident that that swing thought will help me tomorrow as well. So I feel fairly happy. As long as some putts drop, I will be very pleased.

Q. Yesterday Paula made a pretty good run in the middle of the golf course, this is where yours occurred. What is it about that stretch that allows you to maybe get a few shots back?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think 9 is a tough hole, but birdie on 9 was a great move and definitely a good confidence booster for me.

10 as long as you hit the fairway, everything will feed down towards the flag. So as long as you get the distance right, you will have a pretty good chance at birdie there.

11 is a reachable par 5 for me. So I knew I had a good opportunity to make another birdie there.

12, the par 3, you know, as long as you are on the right side, good distance, you know, you still stand a chance of making it but you know who knows it's kind of a toss up.

Next hole, short par 4, you can definitely make a move with a wedge into that hole. 14 is a tough hole, so that was a good birdie.

Q. A lot of the players seemed real tentative on the greens most of the week. Were your birdie putts in your stretch today were they just bleeding into the hole or were you giving them a good serious pull?

KAREN STUPPLES: Most of my birdie putts today had at least four inches worth of swing on them and so really you can't really give those a wrap, but you can -- it's just a question of pace and line, pace and line, and as long as they drop in the hole, you know, I will take it. I don't think you could ever play these greens too aggressively. I made that mistake early on. I had a three-putt on the third hole, and I got impatient, went for it and before you know it you have had a bogey.

So I think it's all about patience and in all fairness, I think for a U.S. Open par is a good score on any golf hole out here. You just try and wait for it to fall in.

RHONDA GLENN: They also had you down for a three-putt on 18.

KAREN STUPPLES: Yes.

RHONDA GLENN: How far?

KAREN STUPPLES: Front left of the green and the putt going up to the hole was a lot slower than I had anticipated. The next putt I thought was pretty good, you know, life happens.

RHONDA GLENN: How long was your first putt, would you say?

KAREN STUPPLES: Oh, it was probably close to 45 feet.

Q. Talking about the teenagers, where were you with your golf game when you were 15 and when you were 17, and what would have been a reasonable score for you at those ages on this course?

KAREN STUPPLES: Well, my first ever round of golf on a golf course was when I was 13 and I shot 144 when I was 13. When I got to about 15, well, I suppose we'll say 16, when I got to 16 I was pretty close to having a scratch handicap and I was starting to represent England ladies' junior team, but in no way shape or form was I in any state to try and play in a professional golf event. In fact, I only played in one professional event before I turned pro at age 25. I played in one British Open as an amateur, other than that I had no experience at all.

So I mean, the opportunities that these girls are having to play in regular LPGA Tour events and to get experience playing against the best players in the world is quite phenomenal.

Q. What would your score have been on this course?

KAREN STUPPLES: At 16 on this golf course, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep it in the fairway. I really couldn't tell you. I suppose my handicap at the time was roughly about scratch, but around here, I mean, I think I'd have been happy with 10 over.

Q. How much do you think the experience of the last day is something that will help you?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think it will help. I don't have -- certainly won't try and put any pressure on myself, feeling like I must win, I have got to win. My main goal for tomorrow will be to try and do the best that I can and accept whatever the consequences of that will be. And that was the same attitude that I took into the British Open. I won't have to get off to a fast start tomorrow, so that would be nice but impossible around here, I think.

Q. Being British can you look back and tell us what kind of a thrill was it winning the British Open open a year ago?

KAREN STUPPLES: It was absolutely amazing. My family was all there, aunts and uncles and my sister, my parents, my grandmother, everybody was there and to do that in front of them when they really don't get a chance to see me play. They don't come out here very much and just to be around them and have them there and supporting me really felt a whole wave of support from the fans and everybody and although it was very surreal because, I mean, I was playing golf, I mean, like I'd never played golf before, I thought. It was just an amazing experience. I still get goose bumps. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. I still have to pinch myself to make sure that it's still real because it still seems, did it really happen? Because I didn't expect anything like that to happen to me. I just was amazing.

Q. Can you talk about your journey a little bit. Things really seemed to click for you last year? Why did it take you a few years before you really kind of figured it out?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think as much as anything, what I talked about it earlier, only playing in one professional golf tournament before, I was thrown in the deep end with the LPGA. That's what I felt almost happened there you get stuck here. I was having breakfast and Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and Laura Davies were there. It took me a long time to get used to the fact that I was out here with them.

Then I started to look at what I needed to do with my game to see how good I could be out here. Every year I have made little improvements in my game to tried and see where I am at and try and, you know, to try and get better. So every year I am always looking to improve. Last year it just happened in a big flash. (Laughs).

All of a sudden I went poof, got better very quickly.

Q. Have you had any issues with dealing with sort of expectations that come with being a major champion and does it change the way you look at yourself as a player and your expectations of yourself?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think that's a good question because I think I have been dealing with that all year so far. Knowing how well I can play and how disappointed I had been with how I had been performing. So you know, I think yes, a lot of it was expectations because I know what my potential is and to underachieve so far this year was very disappointing. I think a lot of that came down to wanting to play well so badly again.

Q. Coming into this week all the talk was on Annika and her going for the Grand Slam. Looks like she's going to be about 6 shots back tomorrow. Do other players still consider her a threat at that point?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think, I mean, I think absolutely. As I have proven today with that string of six birdies, absolutely, anything can happen out there. Under the pressure and the nerves and if anybody can do it, it would be her. I mean, however I am going to be looking at my own game and trying to make sure that I do what I need to do.

Q. Now you talked about the British Open with your family. What kind of support group do you have here now with you?

KAREN STUPPLES: Actually I have some good friends here with me, my sponsor, from my golf course in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The owner of the course and his wife and family are here and my good friends from there are here, too. I have a good little base. I have some other friends who live out here that I have developed playing in Pro-Ams, they have come to watch me. I have a little core group of friends out here, so it feels pretty good, although you can't beat your family.

Q. I know winning the British Open was very, very important to you because it was your national championship. That tournament hasn't carried the major designation that long. This one has carried it for 60 years. Is that are all majors created equal or is this a big deal?

KAREN STUPPLES: This is a big deal. I mean, there's no ifs, ands, or buts, the one tournament though that I grew up watching was the British Open because when I was never exposed to American golf until I came to university out here. So the British Open was always very special to me.

But having said that, since I have been living out here for the last six years and this is my fourth one, the nerves, I think, are more here than they are anywhere else. I think a lot of it has to do with how the course is, how it's played, you know, knowing that any moment anything can happen. As I said you are playing golf on a knife edge. Anything, you know, either way if you can keep straight on the edge, life is good but, whew, fall off and you are in a lot of trouble.

I love this championship. USGA does a fantastic job here, every year so many people come out to watch. It's phenomenal to me how many people are here, even my first one was is Kansas, in Hutchinson, Prairie Dunes. The amount of people that were there stunned me, from such a rural area. They were coming from miles away. Just is a huge, huge golf tournament, and as I said the USGA have done a fantastic job this week in how they have set the course up.

Q. Another background question, how did you end up at Florida State and did you experience any kind of culture shock your first year in America?

KAREN STUPPLES: It was bigger than that. I actually went to Arkansas State my freshman year and it was different because all I knew was that I wanted to come to university out here. It was a chance for me to get away from what I saw as a bit of a rat race playing amateur golf in the U.K., trying to get into this team, trying to make that team; it was too much. I just wanted to get away, play my golf and get a bit of an education. I ended up playing more golf than education, but you know, that's how it goes.

Yeah, my parents put me on the plane and Gatwick Airport, I flew through Atlanta the biggest airport in the world. I'd had to change planes, having not done it before. I went to Memphis, met up with my golf coach who was a guy. My parents and I had never met him. They knew they were sending me off to meet a strange guy in Memphis. It was a quite a leap of faith.

I had a good time. I won some tournaments there. I had a friend who went to Florida State. I wanted some better competition, so I transferred and went to Florida State.

Q. What was life like in Jonesboro, Arkansas?

KAREN STUPPLES: It was different. We had the biggest thunderstorm I had ever seen in my life my first day there. My roommate we went to McDonald's. She ordered biscuits and jelly. That to me is like cookies and jam. I am like, biscuits and jelly? Now biscuits and jelly, I would have that in a flash. At the time it just seemed very strange.

I learned to line dance. I know (laughter) Don't laugh.

When in Rome...

Q. Do you feel like the British Open win resonated with fans over here? Do you feel like you are well-known among golf fans over here? Do you think that this championship could really do more for your career?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think so. I think that the British Open obviously has been huge for me and in terms of, you know, everybody's awareness of who I am, but I think this one would definitely add to that as well and even just playing well, I am sure. I mean, I have just been interviewed on NBC on national television over here, so that all goes a long way to making Karen Stupples more of a name, although I am happy with Karen Stupples the way she is anyway.

Q. You mentioned a good swing thought, is that a new swing thought?

KAREN STUPPLES: It's kind of going back to some old things, nothing technical, thank goodness. It is about trying to find the rhythm and timing when the pressure is on and when finding rhythm is a tough thing to do. In my practice swing it's something I worked on with my psychologist as well, my coach, is that, if I pause at the top of my back swing in my practice swing, and come through hard and fast how I want to, that's easier for me to translate and my timing is better because I have had a good practice swing. It's almost like exaggerating something in your practice swing. Famous one would be Corey Pavin, the way he does his practice swing. Mine is nothing as extreme as that. But for me to give myself more time at the top of my back swing allows me to return my club head squarer at the point of impact.

End of FastScripts.


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