Let’s Ask an LPGA Golfer

I’m primarily a runner and the thing that impresses me most about running is all the adult athletes I see around me. Sure you have the kids who ran in college, but I’m always impressed by the people who discovered professional sports later in life. One such person is my friend Caiti Klassovity. When Caiti told me she was leaving the film industry behind to pursue a professional golf career, I had no idea what that meant. I was happy for her, but didn’t understand what obstacles she had to conquer to do that. So, we went to dinner on weeknight in Los Feliz, caught up, and I asked the hard-hitting questions about life as a nearly professional athlete.

Liz: How did you discover golf? Why did you decide this was something that could be your career?

Caiti: Golf was the furthest thing from my mind, but one weekend my now-ex was out of town and I thought, “Hey, there is that par 3 down the street.” So I went and I did it and was addicted. I literally woke up at 6 am every day from there on out, up to today, to go play and practice this sport. It hit me like… whatever hits you and wakes you up.

What’s a typical day? What do you do to train for golf from an athletic perspective? Because all I know is that it’s a lot of walking

Yeah, it takes four and a half hours to play eighteen holes (laughs). I give about an hour a day to working out, which consists of running, core work (where all your power comes from), arms, and I guess your thighs, really. Beyond that I’ll go to the course in the morning for three to six hours, averaging five hours. If I have a lesson, I’ll have my lesson and play afterwards. If I don’t, I’ll warm up for about an hour, then go play for four hours. And then I have to go nanny after all that.

Can’t forget about that day job. How do most people get involved with golf?

Most people are born and bred for it. I obviously started super late. My brother was the golfer, he went to college on a scholarship, and he is pro level now. He shoots under par regularly; he’s like 69, which is crazy good. We grew up on a course so I was around it, but I played basketball, tennis and softball. I think most people start around ten or eleven, and go on scholarship for college. If they excel, they will get their pro card.

For the LPGA, you do what’s called Q school, and it’s a series of two tournaments. You have to qualify and make the cut for the first tourney, then the second. Only then will you have pro status. On top of that, you have to maintain it for that season so you have to hit certain scores in the tournaments you are in. There are not very many people with pro cards, maybe 200 women.

It is, of course, insanely hard to maintain that level of competition—to keep playing tournaments like that. But there are also less women that do that, compared to the PGA. It’s insane. Every young guy you see at the course wants to be on the tour and it’s not very likely it’s going to happen.

I’m older, in general, but that’s the great thing about golf. There are women who have been on the tour for twenty years who are still in the top five and then you have Lydia Ko who is 16. It’s a huge range: you can get into it at any age.

Do you feel like golf is more prevalent in certain parts of the country?

The hubs for golf are Southern California, Florida and Arizona—those are the biggest spots. But also there is a lot of golf where I grew up in the Northeast. Even though we have strong prevalent seasons, it’s very huge into golf culturally. I guess that makes it a coastal thing. But year-round warm weather helps: anywhere where you don’t have to spend part of the year inside.

What do you think your biggest challenge is right now (as a golfer)?

The biggest thing I lack is experience—playing competitively or just playing a lot at all. I have a membership now so I can play every day, but you have to develop a different persona to turn on during competition time. Even swinging in front of people and playing with people is different than when you just go out there by yourself.

For me, it’s about finding a good base of my game, which I have a good grasp of now. I have been working with my coach now for almost a year, so that is coming together. It’s the skeleton of my game. But I think getting into competition mode and performing at that level consistently will be my biggest challenge.

Can you explain where you are going? Why you are leaving LA?

I am leaving LA to move to Savannah, Georgia, in July. In LA, I have a great core group here in the golf world, including my coach—who coaches me for free simply because of our shared passion. But I have an opportunity where I can have golf and housing paid for by a sponsor that I can’t recreate here. I would like to not worry about rent, not worry about a job. So I’m going to take the opportunity to just quiet down and focus on this.

I wish I could remember the exact quote, but it’s like “you have to spend a little time creating the life you want now so you don’t spend all of your time living a life you don’t want later.” That is exactly what I’m doing. I’m not giving up time—I’m working towards what I want my future to look like.

How did you form your community out here?

Alicia is one of my best golf girlfriends here, actually my only one. The scene is completely male-dominated. When I first decided I wanted to play, I literally searched all the pros around my area and emailed them what I wanted to do. Asking for advice and positions. My now-coach Ben Krug answered and said let’s meet. Eventually I became a member of the club there and it’s a community once you are a member of a club.

Age wise, walk-of-life-wise—golf is an old white man’s sport. Let’s face it—Ben is 35, Alicia is 33. We’re all there because we love the game. But everyone can see themselves in golf one way or another other, playing or working in it.

I remember back in the day when you first started this, you were talking to a friend about women’s golf apparel and how it drove you nuts that all you could find was pink.

That has not changed. I was just talking to my friend about that and she wants to do a whole line and stuff.

Are you going to help with that?

I would. I would do that side of things. First I’m going to see where I can get my game and where I can compete. I will compete first, but as another avenue, absolutely. We want different styles, patterns, fabrics, and not pink, but we also want something that’s not $80 for a shirt. It’s super expensive.

The women golfer numbers are lower than before just because it’s expensive. At my course. it costs $90 to play a round of golf.

Speaking of all those costs, what generally are the startup costs of golf: like if I want to go out and play, what do I need? How much do you spend a week on golf?

Membership at my club is about $4200 a year, and they worked with me to make a payment plan when I started.

Just starting with golf, you don’t need the best clubs. Look for slightly used clubs—but even at Play It Again Sports, that will be $400. A jazzy new outfit will be $150 for gloves, shoes, and the rest. A lot of the courses for LA Parks are great and they are only $30; when you play twilight, you can even play some courses for $12.

If you want to get serious, you need to start to take lessons. It is a sport that you absolutely cannot teach yourself. Your natural habits in golf are going to be the opposite of what you should be doing. That’s why it’s a tireless game. You have to have the mentality and the physicality and spirituality—all cylinders have to be firing.

You’ll have the weekend warriors, guys who go play on the weekends and hit the ball around. I think it’s hilarious when people take golf up in retirement, because it’s one of the most stressful things! You have to be persistent and you have to practice. Most people go straight to the range, but you have to have a short game. You have to go to the putting green or else you’re not going to score. But that’s what people who are just beginning don’t know. They just go out and play and they are like, “Why can’t I hit the ball? Why is it going left? Why is it going right?” They try to self-correct and it doesn’t work… at all.

What would you say is the most fun part of the game? Is it the people, or a specific moment?

The most fun part is finding that sort of release where you relinquish control within the game but also within your life. It’s mind-altering and life-changing. If you go for a round, a four-hour round, and I’m playing with you, I will see every emotion I’ll ever have. It’s a picture of character really. The fun part for me is trying to maintain this game and realizing, every time, you are going to have shitty shots. You are going to mess up more than succeed but every hole is different. You always have another chance. You always have another round. You can be in a sand trap and only have one shot left and you can hole it. Or you can putt it in. You can always save yourself.

So figuring that out and being able to read the green—I love it. It’s always challenging, but it always brings you back because once you make that putt or nail that drive, you’re addicted.

It’s never repetitive and it never gets boring and I can see a future in it.

Is there always something to do? When I see golf it’s the most boring sport, but on the other hand I guess some people say running is boring too!

Take softball for example. If you go to a softball game, it’s a slow sport. I could be bored watching that, but the spectators aren’t thinking strategy like you are. They aren’t thinking, “Okay, if she hits it here, I’m going to throw it here. If she does this, I’m going to do that.” You know the mental aspect of the game and you are thinking ahead. With golf, it’s the same. You can have weekend warrior level where people just hit a ball, walk to it, hit a ball.

When you graduate to a higher level, you are using course management. You are able to control your ball flight, you are able to use a different swing for a different shot,  get this distance out of this club, put the ball here.

It’s hard and amazing. I can understand it seems boring, I thought it was boring for twenty-six years, but you know the diehard fans realize that these people are rock stars. She’s not alive anymore but Babe Zaharias is a legend. She was like back in the day during the founding the LPGA, but she was crazy good at everything: Javelin, golf, competitive sewer. And then today, I really admire Azahara Munoz. She’s from Spain. I saw her play a couple weekends ago at the Kraft-Nabisco tournament. I like the way she composes herself, and her swing is beautiful. She’s always on the cusp of greatness: she’s in the top five of every tourney but waiting to bust onto the scene. I like her style.

Final thoughts?

Play golf. Women reading, please play golf.

Liz Bohinc is a staff writer. Compassionate Human Being. Runner. Reader. Science Fact and Science Fiction Enthusiast. Softball Addict. Animation Connoisseur. Twitter: @littlelyme.

Photo by Sara Slattery
Photo by Sara Slattery
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