Junior golfer Sally Watson kicked off her year with a bang, scoring birdies on four of her last 12 shots and sinking a 40-foot putt to capture a come-from-behind individual title and second place team finish at the Cougar Cup hosted by Washington State. The Daily had a chance to chat with Watson about her passion for the game of golf, living so far from home and dreams for the future.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What made you chose Stanford among all the different schools that were recruiting you?
Sally Watson (SW): I think ultimately I decided to come here because it had the best combination of academics and athletics. Stanford has a fantastic athletics program, and the golf range here is unbelievable. I might be biased, but I think it’s the best in the country. And then obviously the academic prestige of coming to Stanford was definitely a strong pull as well. I feel like not only does Stanford give me a great opportunity to be successful in golf, but if I decide after university that I don’t want to pursue a career as a professional golfer, then a lot of other doors have been opened, and I have a lot of other opportunities in other areas of my life.
TSD: How have you been able to make the transition to living on the West Coast and adjusting to being so far from home in Scotland?
SW: It’s probably tougher on my parents than on me. I’m so busy that time seems to just fly by, but I miss home. My sister used to be on the East Coast playing golf at the University of Tennessee, which was nice because it was a smaller time difference, and I could call her at nighttime. But now she’s graduated and back home, so it’s pretty much just me over here. But ultimately I wanted to play anywhere in America and with the opportunities that I get at Stanford, I wasn’t going to turn any of that down just because it’s farther away from home. My parents have always encouraged us to travel, and I’m pretty comfortable living abroad.
TSD: How did you first get into the game of golf? What was it that sparked your love for the sport?
SW: I was about four years old when I first started playing golf. We have a house in a small village in Scotland, and there’s a little nine-hole golf course, and all the kids just kind of hack it around there. And they did summer lessons, and it was like a pound for a half-hour group lesson. You just went, had a quick lesson and then played nine holes. They had a competition every Friday, and you’d win like a golf ball if you came in first. I’ve always been really competitive, so I started playing at a young age. When I tore my ACL in my right knee, it stopped me playing basketball, and I started playing more golf and had some success in it. Just being a competitive person, anything you’re successful at seems to make you want to do more of it and continue playing. The more success I’ve had, the harder it makes me want to work. What’s tough about golf is it just is a really tough game, and it pushes you mentally to be super strong and super tough. And I think that stanchion can stand in other areas of your life. I enjoy the challenge and trying to overcome it. It’s kind of a never-ending quest trying to get better.
TSD: What are your goals this season with the Cardinal?
SW: I would like us to win a tournament in each the fall and spring seasons. I think we’re perfectly capable of doing that. Obviously, in golf more than other sports, it really does have to be your week. With so many teams in each tournament and everyone these days playing at such a high level, you need a few good breaks here and there, and everyone has to be really solid to win. Golf is very much a day-to-day sport. Some days you play fantastic, the next you go out and feel like a 20-handicapper. You even see it in the professionals who go out and shoot a 69 one day and 76 the next. By the end of the year, I want us to be ranked in the top five in the country. We all need to keep getting better at performing under pressure and performing as a team. We need everyone to be firing on all cylinders at the same time, which can be tough.
TSD: Speaking of pressure, you sank a pretty clutch putt recently. What was it like to go out and win the individual title two weeks ago at the Cougar Cup?
SW: The last day I was really focused on the team. But I was really impressed with my performance on the back nine. I kept hanging in there, made some good birdie putts and made some really clutch putts for par. I stayed patient enough and birdied the last two holes. And the birdie on the last, that was a little lucky. That [putt] was like 54 feet or something. I paced it off to try and get a better feel. I’m not going to say there’s that much skill in something like that. You have to read it right and hope you put the right pace on it, but you need things to go your way for the ball to drop. I’m very fortunate, but it was kind of nice to win the outright title.
TSD: What are your aspirations in golf after you graduate? Do you have a goal in mind, or a dream you want to realize?
SW: Yes, ultimately I want to become the best golfer in the world, get that No. 1 ranking. Obviously that’s very high aspirations and a tough goal. But even some of the women playing in the Solheim Cup last year, I’ve played with them before in junior events and beat them in tournaments. At this point, it’s not that I don’t think I have the right game, it’s just learning how to do things more consistently–especially the good things–when it counts under pressure. I had a solid summer, working on a lot of things and I think I definitely want to turn professional after school, not to just be a professional and make the cut here and there. I really want to try and compete and get as high up the world rankings as possible.
TSD: What is your favorite thing to do on campus that is not golfing?
SW: I really love hanging out with my team. There are only seven of us, we’re a small, wee team, but I really love the girls. Relaxing with them outside of a serious atmosphere–when we’re at practice, it’s pretty serious. I love the team golf aspect at Stanford, I must say. It’s an individual sport and you’re used to doing that. But the team dynamic offers just a different way of playing. We’ve got a great team and it’s fun to be out here.