Last year Mina Harigae finally realized a lifelong ambition of winning a USGA championship when she defeated Stephany Fleet at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, which was held at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky.
She went on to play in the U.S. Women’s Open and was one of four amateurs to make the cut, dryly stating after the second round: "I was hoping I would miss the cut. I feel like I don’t really deserve to the way I played." She finished her first Women’s Open 21-over 305 for a tie at 67th.
Things continue to be on the up and up for Harigae, who has appeared in 16 USGA championships. She was recently named to the USA Curtis Cup team and will attend Duke this fall to play golf. She shared with the USGA her thoughts about golf, what she would change and what really ticks her off.
The reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion. How often have you been introduced like that and what’s your reaction? Do you have to look around and say, ‘Is that really me?’
Harigae: I've only been introduced like that a few times and I think it's pretty cool. Yeah at first it’s like, ‘Whoa, that's me,’ but when I think about it not many people get to be introduced like that so I think it's really cool. It may be a little nerve-wracking, because I don’t want to top the ball in front of people being a USGA champion and all.
You have accomplished quite a bit in golf for only being 18 years old. What drives you to succeed? And why did you choose to start playing golf?
Harigae: What drives me, I guess, is my competitiveness. I've always been competitive and I love to succeed. Makes me feel like I'm doing something right.
Why golf? It just came natural to me and I find it fun hitting a little golf ball around. [Laughter]. But really I like it because it's the best feeling in the world making an important 10-footer or sticking it next to the flag. I started playing because I thought it was a fun sport trying to hit the ball as far as I can. Then I started to love the game and it just became routine.
Is there a favorite quote that you adhere to?
Harigae: “There are no shortcuts to success." I heard Annika [Sorenstam] say that at the Polo Banquet last November and I thought it was a great quote, especially because it's from Annika.
Did winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title change you in any way?
Harigae: Not really. I'm still the same except now I know that I can win, so it drives me more to do even better. I feel like I broke through part of a wall in a way.
What is something about you that would make people say ‘Hmmm …’ or would be surprised to know?
Harigae: I eat a lot? I guess that would surprise people that don't know me. I mean I can eat for an hour straight.
What’s been your biggest ‘Wow!’ moment as a golfer?
Harigae: Playing with Tom Kite and Tom Watson. It's so cool that they know my name, because they're the legends of golf. It's like, ‘I can't believe I'm having a conversation with these people - they're so awesome.’
You live in Monterey, Calif. So what’s your favorite local course — Cypress Point, Pebble Beach or some place else? And why?
Harigae: I love Cypress Point. The whole course is gorgeous and it's a tough course, especially with the wind. And I like Alister MacKenzie courses. He's a genius. Oh, and I love ocean views. [Laughter].
You’re California-born and bred, so why did you choose to attend Duke, located all the way across the country in Durham, N.C.?
Harigae: I wanted to go somewhere that can prepare me for the LPGA Tour. Duke has the best women's program, and I love the team and coach [Dan] Brooks. I know I can learn a lot from the team because they work really hard and I know I can learn a lot from coach Brooks. I mean, he does have three NCAA Championships under his belt, so he must be good. [Laughter].
Oh, and I want to go somewhere that can give me a great education. And I think the campus is gorgeous. I have to get used to the east coast weather since tournaments are always on the east coast.
You always appear to be having fun and have a smile on your face, but is there anything that really ticks you off?
Harigae: Yeah, people who don't understand my life with golf. They think when I go to tournaments that I have time to sight-see and have loads of leisure time, when they have no idea how hard it is to compete in a tournament with good players. And they don’t understand the time and work I put into this game. It's really stressful trying to make them understand.
What were you doing when you found out you had been named to the 2008 Curtis Cup team?
Harigae: I was at Poppy Hills going to go practice. I screamed after I found out. [Laughter].
How cool will it be to play St. Andrews? (Editor’s note: The Curtis Cup is scheduled May 30-June 1 on The Old Course).
Harigae: It would be so awesome. I've talked to people who have been there and they say it is amazing. I can't believe I'm actually going there.
What’s the most nervous you’ve ever been on a golf course?
Harigae: Probably at the U.S. Women's Open [last year]. I didn't want to embarrass myself.
If you could be the ‘Czar of Golf,’ what one rule would you change or implement?
Harigae: The 10-second rule when the ball is hanging on the edge. I think it's ridiculous if it's not in. Oh well, move on. I lost a hole in one match-play event because I knocked the ball away before the person got to the ball and waited 10 seconds. I waited 10 seconds, but the person wasn't up there. I thought it was dumb and that really ticked me off.
Do you have an iPod? If so, what three songs are the most played?
Harigae: I’m attached to my iPod. Three songs that are played the most are “Check Yes Juliet” by We the Kings, “With You” by Chris Brown, and “Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am” by Fall Out Boy.
Favorite TV show?
Harigae: “Project Runway.” I love all the things the designers make. It's so neat. I wish I was that creative.
Night person or morning person?
Harigae: Oh, definitely night person. I hate getting up in the morning and I hate morning people, because they annoy me in the morning. [Laughter].
If you didn’t play golf, what would you like to do?
Harigae: Something to do with animals. I love animals. When I was younger I wanted to go into marine biology or be a vet.
What’s been the most embarrassing moment on the golf course?
Harigae: When I was waiting for the group in front of me when I was younger, I sat down and laid back on my back with my arms and legs spread out. And the man behind me drove up and asked, ‘Is she OK?!’ to my mom because he thought I was hurt. My mom and I were so embarrassed.