It was recently announced that Great Lakes Tourism, Forster Tuncurry Golf Club and local international golfing champ Sarah Kemp have joined forces to showcase the amazing Great Lakes region on the international golfing stage.
Sarah Kemp, international golfing champ, will now wear Great Lakes and Forster Tuncurry Golf club branding on her attire wherever she competes, entering all future tournaments representing Forster Tuncurry. Australia will now see our region grow in prominence as Sarah’s career does.
In preparing to interview Sarah, I thought I should find out a little bit about her and more to the point, more about golf. Scouring the internet, I stumbled upon this LPGA Championship Review By Bob DiCesare and Jay Skurski, on Fox Sports “… By far the craziest scorecard Sunday belonged to Sarah Kemp. The Australian shot, get this, 29-43 for an even-par 72. Her 6-under front nine included a hole-in-one on the 161-yard fifth hole. Kemp shot 4-under on the three par-3s on the front nine.”
Now for those of you who know golf, I’m sure it means something, but I was none the wiser. Rustling up a few questions about bogies, birdies and caddies, I made my way to the interview to be met by one of the most delightful, down to earth young ladies out there.
Fortunately for me, she loves the area and shoes as much as I do, so we had more than enough to talk about, and I’d be lying if I said that by the end of our meeting, I wasn’t just a little bit tempted to give golf a try.
Your connection with the Great Lakes is that your parents live here, but what keeps you coming back to visit?
Well, my parents would be the number one reason, but I just love the lifestyle up here. I really enjoy the beach, and there is that air of ‘a little bit of country’ by the ocean. I love it. It’s relaxing and a great place to come for down time. I really enjoy the place.
When did you first pick up a golf club?
When I was 12. I probably mucked around as a kid before that. I remember caddying for my dad when I was maybe 7 or 8. I had these little cut down clubs, and I would muck around. But I had my first game of golf when I was 12. I joined the golf club about 6 months after that and went from there.
So your dad was a bit of a golf fanatic?
Yeah, he still is. Mum and dad both play. At that time I started, he was pretty serious with his golf.
So, were there many other kids playing golf?
Yeah, it wasn’t as popular back then as it is now. I joined a program at Beverly Park Sydney, a junior program – there were more boys than girls, but I definitely had some kids to play with.
So what is the attraction of golf, other than it being a family passion?
I just really loved it. I really enjoy the competition. I’m pretty competitive, so I don’t think I would have done as well in a team sport. I’m a bit selfish like that; I like all the attention on me. I love competing – even if I lost on a particular day, it doesn’t matter. I got to be in the moment, and I just love competing.
Do you think because of the way golf is scored and the nature of the sport that it’s as much a competition with yourself as it is with the people you are playing against?
Definitely. Your headspace can make or break you at any point … so definitely.
In your young career of 12 years, what is your highlight so far?
I don’t think I’ve lived it yet, to be honest, but I’ve had some pretty good times. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing – nothing spectacular has happened yet. I haven’t won a tournament, but I’ve finished 2nd and 3rd, so I think I’m still waiting to answer that question. I’m hoping it’s still to come.
But the way, I got onto the LPGA tour – that was pretty special. The qualifying school is five days with various stages, and I made it to the final stage. It’s a 5 round golf tournament, (usually you only play 4 days), so it was mentally and physically gruelling and on the last day I birdied the last four holes to get my card by one shot. To get onto the tour, which is the best tour in the world, is a pretty big thing, and the way I did it made a lot of headlines. When I think of where I’ve got to and how I got there, it is probably one of the biggest highlights.
So if you haven’t reached the pinnacle, and I’m sure there are great things to come, where would you like to be 5 years from now?
Winning golf tournaments.
Any particular tournament?
All of them.
So do the ladies get to wear a green jacket when they win?
No they don’t, but we get to do a few other things. There is a major tournament, where you get to jump in the pond when you win, and that’s pretty special.
In the pond? So is golf still wrapped up in some old fashioned traditions? To jump in a pond sounds like an unusual way to celebrate a win?
Yeah right (laughs). There are still a lot of traditions wrapped up in the game.
So for those of us who are completely unfamiliar with the sport of golf, please explain what a bogie is …
A bogie is one shot over the par of the hole. So each hole has a par, which means you are supposed to get the ball in the hole in that number of shots. There are par 3s, 4s and 5s. So on a par 3 you need to get the ball in the hole in 3 shots, but there is also what is called a handicap. When I first started playing golf, my handicap was 45, which means on that par 3 I was allowed to have 5 shots – it gets complicated…
But the better you are, the lower your handicap, so, at my level I have a scratch handicap, so I am supposed to have the par 3, 4 and 5 done in that number of shots and also get birdies, which means you are under par.
So birdies good – bogies bad?
We like the birdies.
Apart from your dad, who else has been a big influence on your career?
Growing up, Karrie Webb was the number one golfer in the world at the time, so it was pretty huge to watch a fellow countrywoman be the best in your sport. I looked up to her a lot and wanted to be the next Carrie Webb.
If you could play a round of golf with anyone, who would it be?
I got asked this the other day and the first person that came to mind was Tiger Woods, ‘cause I bet he would have some really good conversations.
I don’t doubt he would!
Whether or not he would tell me … but I thought about it, and he was the first one that came to mind. There are a lot of people I’d like to play golf with, but I reckon he would keep it interesting.
What is your favourite course to play on?
Probably NSW Golf Club in Sydney. I grew up playing pennants there and joined the club when I was 14. It is unbelievable; it is right on the ocean, and there are a few holes where you actually hit over the sea – it’s a really special spot. It’s probably my favourite course in the whole world.
That’s a big call …
You’ve just become the ambassador for Great Lakes Tourism. What does that entail for you?
I’d love to be able to make golf a bigger deal in the area, especially for the juniors. I’m very lucky that this has happened, and I am really excited about the opportunity to work with the Great Lakes to make golf a bigger deal in the area.
Are there a lot of young people in the sport coming up through the ranks?
I think it’s different in all areas. I know in the city it’s a big deal.
I’m not sure about locally, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I hope I can do a lot of junior clinics and stuff like that to get more kids out and playing – that would be great.
So what’s your favourite course locally?
Tuncurry. It’s one of the best in NSW. It’s a tough course; it’s tight. Every time I’ve been there, the greens are of a really good quality, especially for a county course, and it’s gotta be up there with the best. [Tuncurry course is #81 public access course in Australia, as rated by Australian Golf Magazine.]
It’s a bit of a hidden secret, that Tuncurry course.
It really is.
I don’t think locals even know it is there if they don’t play golf. I know; it’s a little gem, to be honest. It is a top golf course; it really is.
I know you are at the beginning of your career, and we know that professional swimmers can’t swim forever. Can professional golfers golf forever?
They can, but I won’t be. I would like to start having kids in my early 30s; that is pretty important to me. I would love to have my own family. I’ve got about 7 or 8 years before I get there, so I plan on winning lots of tournaments before I settle down to start my family. I can always come back after that as well – golf will be in my life forever, but one of my priorities is to have kids.
I read you are a little bit passionate about shoes. Are golf shoes a fashion item?
Oh yeah. I’ve probably gone overboard when it comes to golf shoes, but I have so many different outfits I need to match my shoes with. It’s all about colour co-ordination. So I need golf shoes in every colour there is … (laughs).
So what kinds of golf shoes are there?
You can get whatever colour you want. I’m lucky that at the level I’m at, I can get golf shoes customised, so I take advantage of that and get them in all colours and styles – it’s pretty cool.
I guess when I think of golf fashion, I have that stereotyped tartan pants view. But is it a bit of a fashion competition for the ladies on the golf course?
I don’t think it is a competition, but there are definitely some girls out there who really pride themselves on looking good on the course. I also think that when you feel good, you play good. I know that when I dress myself in the morning, I do it for me, nobody else, but when I feel good in an outfit, I think I play better that day. So it is important for me, and I know it is for a lot of other girls too.
So for a rank amateur like myself who has never picked up a golf club in my life, what is your advice?
I guess it’s pretty standard, but most amateurs try and smash the golf ball as hard as they can, because they generally think that the harder you swing it, the further it will go. But if you hit it out of the middle of the golf club, that is how you will get the longest shot out there. You don’t really need to smash it; you just have to hit it in the middle, which means accuracy and a slower swing.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Live each day like it’s your last. I guess that’s my motto at the moment. And don’t take things for granted, especially relationships and family. I’m getting a greater appreciation for that travelling so much; I don’t get to see family as often, so it is good when I get home to catch up with them.
So what do you have planned for the rest of the day?
Well, I came up here with my sister and her two kids, so I think we are going to head out and play golf. They have no idea about golf, so it will be pretty fun; I think we might head to the driving range out in Tuncurry.