My story started long before I received my U.S. citizenship in 2004. But it is a day I will never forget. There are a handful of moments that measure up to the feeling I had that day. Two of those memories include getting through the LPGA Q-School on the first try and meeting Tom Nieporte, the man that gave me my start at Winged Foot Golf Club.
My journey to Winged Foot had many twists and turns, but it all began in Lima, Peru. Despite the popularity of soccer and volleyball there, I clung to golf. After my first lesson, I was hooked.
Throughout my junior career, I received a taste of success and never looked back. I played on three winning South America Junior Championship teams, and in 1977, I won individually.
Around that time, I met a man I will never forget: Jose Fernandez. Jose taught me all I needed to know about fundamentals. Now, as a teacher myself, I hope these three things stick with my players too: Grip, weight transfer and position of the hands at impact.
After hoisting many trophies in my Amateur career, in 1988, I decided my next move was to turn professional. I played on the Ladies European Tour for several years, where I nabbed a second-place finish at the French Open and a top-10 finish at the British Open. My next move was on the biggest stage of all—the LPGA. In 1992, at the age of 32, I earned my exemption status onto the LPGA Tour.
I knew immediately why every female golfer in the world had set their sights on making it to the LPGA; it is the world’s best women’s sports organization. I retained my status while on Tour, but more importantly I made a family out on the road. While out on Tour, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a teacher by becoming an LPGA Professional.
The day I met Tom Nieporte in 2001, my life changed completely. Tom Nieporte was the Head Pro at Winged Foot Golf Club. I remember the day I met him like it was yesterday; his soft and charismatic personality, how kind he was and the exact location we met. I said to Mr. Nieporte that day, “If you ever need an assistant, please call me,” while handing him my business card.
It turns out he was looking for an assistant. I was back home in Peru when my Mr. Nieporte’s voice echoed the sentence I prayed I would hear. Even though I had just finished my best scoring average on Tour, I uttered a yes almost immediately.
Not only did that call open a whole new chapter for me, but playing at Winged Foot Golf Club helped my game tremendously. I have since won the Metropolitan Open on three occasions, the LPGA NE Section, grabbed a couple of wins on the Legends Tour and hoisted the trophy at the LPGA Professionals National Championship at Pinehurst No. 8.
In 2010, I was appointed Winged Foot’s Director of Instruction, a position I accepted with pride. I oversee the Junior Program, the Winged Foot Junior Interclub Team, and all instructional programs for the ladies and members. Creating new programs and events comes with its challenges, but nothing I don’t accept with open arms. The junior program has grown tremendously throughout my time, and I see more and more ladies playing golf every year, something I am very proud of.
A prestigious course like Winged Foot tends to attract many big names and even bigger tournaments, including two U.S. Women’s Opens, five U.S. Open’s, and many more.
The next tournament we’re hosting? The 2020 U.S. Open on September 17th.
Winged Foot is a pure and family oriented golf club. It has two beautiful courses, the East and the West. The West is fully prepared for the likes of Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and more. When Rahm arrived early to prepare, he mentioned that this is probably the most challenging course he has ever played. After seeing how far his ball flew after teeing off at 1, I couldn’t be more excited to see these pros take on the challenge at Winged Foot.
On September 12th, I worked my first shift at the driving range ahead of the tournament. Diving into the way their minds work while getting ready for the U.S. and watching them practice leaves me in awe.
I have already seen the best of the world preparing for the demanding U.S. Open. A few days ago, Keegan Bradley walked on the terrace on his way to the 10th hole to say hello to me while having lunch with some members. Watching these men prepare is something any golf fan would dream of. Members are proud of their course’s pristine conditions, and they’re chomping at the bit to see their championship course on prime-time television again.
Unfortunately, this year due to COVID-19, fans, and spectators are not allowed at the event. This also has its perks, though. You’re not going to see 45,000 people on the course; you’re going to get to see the immaculate course for what it is, which is similar to its original design. Pin placements are going to be tough, and it’s going to be fast. The rough will be brutal. It will not be easy. I mean, remember The Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974?
It was difficult postponing the major championship, but I witnessed employees working day and night to get this course in pristine, pure condition, which makes me so proud.
When I think about the position I was appointed to at this Club, I swell with pride. Throughout my tenure at Winged Foot, the moments I have experienced are incredible.
Now, 19 years after I met the man that gave me my start here, and 16 years after I became a U.S. citizen, I know without a doubt that the 2020 U.S. Open will bring a moment that will compare, if not surpass, those key moments in my life.