RANCHO SANTA FE — Most students wouldn’t turn down an offer to attend Harvard. Most wouldn’t choose to spend their first summer home from college on a golf course rather than at the beach. But Kaitlin Drolson isn’t your typical 19-year-old.
After more than 10 years of commitment and determination, the Rancho Santa Fe resident is heading to Bethlehem, Pa., to play in the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open July 9 to July 12 at Saucon Valley Country Club.
To participate, golfers must get through two qualifying tournaments — one local and one sectional. Last year Drolson made it through the locals but missed the sectional by two shots. At the start of this year’s sectional, it looked like history may have been repeating itself.
“I was 6-over after five holes, which is not good at all,” Drolson said, explaining that her father had gotten sick the night before. “I was worried about him carrying my bag for 36 holes,” she said. “It’s a long day — 12 hours. I wasn’t playing bad. I just got a couple of unlucky breaks.”
Once again, unlike most people, Drolson decided to simply keep doing what she was doing. “I just told myself not to change anything because that’s when you start messing up,” she said. “Then on my ninth hole I went birdie and on 10, I sunk a 60-footer for eagle.” That put Drolson at 3-over, where she finished for the day. “I stayed steady and that was really good,” she said.
“When I finished my last hole, I knew I would be close so I ran up to the clubhouse and started looking at scores. It was pretty cool. It didn’t hit me quite at first. Then I thought, ‘Wow, I finally made it after all my hard work.’ That was really nice, especially after my rough start.”
Drolson played tennis as a youngster, but switched sports when she was 8 after a broken foot prevented her from continuing the rigorous moves tennis requires. “My dad took me to the range and I just never went back to tennis,” she said. “I got hooked and started playing tournaments when I was 10.”
Since then Drolson has compiled an impressive list of achievements. She played in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur in 2004 and 2005 and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2005, 2007 and 2008. She was named the San Diego Junior Golf Association Player of the Year in 2006 and was a member of a U.S. squad that same year at the Taiwan Amateur Championship.
While attending Torrey Pines High School she helped her team win the state title during her freshman year and CIF titles that season and again when she was a senior. Drolson took second place at the CIF Southern California Championships in 2006 and at the CIF San Diego Section Championships in 2007. She is a three-time All-CIF San Diego Section honoree and set a nine-hole record with a 6-under 30 as a sophomore.
After graduating in 2008, Drolson opted to stay close to home and accepted a scholarship to Pepperdine University in Malibu, where she made the All-West Coast Conference first team as a freshman and tied for second at the WCC Championships.
While preparing for the U.S. Open, Drolson spent six to 10 hours a day, six days a week at the Del Mar Country Club, which she calls her “little playground.”
Despite all the time she’s spent on golf courses, Drolson said burnout isn’t a factor. “I’m pretty good about making sure I do other things,” she said. “I give myself a break at least one day a week. That really helps charge your batteries. You need that.”
Those “other things” include spending time with her pony, an occasional trip to the beach and catching up on sleep. “The sleep thing gets pretty killed with golf because I have early morning workouts every day,” she said.
If she could meet any professional golfer, it would be Tiger Woods. She attended every day of the U.S. Open last year at Torrey Pines Golf Course and was there to see Woods take the title.
“There were so many people I couldn’t see anything,” Drolson said. “So my friend put me on his shoulders and I got to see the final putt. It was just awesome.”
Once she graduates from Pepperdine, where she is a business major, Drolson said she plans to pursue a professional golf career. If that doesn’t pan out, she’d like to work for a sports management company. “I love golf,” she said. “I hope to stay in it forever. It’s the greatest sport in the world.”
Her ultimate goal is to own a golf course in Southern California that uses miniature horses rather than carts to carry the bags. “That way I can combine my two passions,” she said.
Spoken like someone who tends to not do things as most people would.