Interview with Samantha Marks
I can always tell when students return for the fall semester in Chapel Hill because our sleepy little town swells with an additional 20,000 eager students. While most of these kids are leaving an idle summer behind, incoming Freshman Samantha Marks’s summer was highlighted by playing in the 2012 Women’s US Open at Blackwolf Run. Prior to enrolling at the University of North Carolina, Samantha lived in Florida where she competed on the high school varsity golf team for 7 years. Yeah, 7 years, which according to her, did not exactly endear her to the older girls who she regularly beat. Then again, most high school players do not qualify for perhaps the toughest women’s golf tournament in the world.
I met Samatha at the UNC golf course where I often practice, albeit not on the “players side”. Flanked by her mom and dad, Samantha was striking balls one after another as I strolled up. I had read a bit about Samantha so I was aware of how she had qualified for the US Open but what I really was interested in was just how special that event was. If a new loaner Lexus for the week is any indication, I would say the US Open is pretty special (not to mention the hole in one she carded during a practice round). Beyond the perks, it was the time spent with her family during this carear highlight that seemed most precious to Samantha.
Over the course of the two days Samantha competed in the US Open, she and her father walked the fairways together in matching LoudMouth golf attire. I think this show of fashion unity is just a hint to the level of teamwork the two share. Her father, who is clearly a big influence on Samantha, beamed with pride as he related the stories from the week. Humorously, Samantha even shared how nervous she was on the 1st tee of the Open and gave me a demonstration of the drive she hit (she feigned nearly missing the ball completely).
Samantha’s father has been her long-time caddy and seems to be fully engaged in her game and career as evidenced by the fact that he was often quick to answer questions I posed to Samantha, as well as in his paying close attention to her swing as I idly chatted. Not to insinuate any level of over-bearingness, but as a father of a college athlete, the father/daughter relationship has always intrigued me. The ability to separate the father/daughter role from coach/caddy/player role is one that is riddled with pitfalls. To date however, Samantha and her father appear to have it figured out and their golf partnership seems to be a completely positive relationship.
In today’s world, more and more teenagers are competing at a high level of sports and are being asked to not only be prepared to play against the best in their field but also to handle all of outside forces that often require a totally different skill set. Specifically, athletes are now thrust into dealing with media, vendors and fans at a level most of us will never understand. Navigating these waters is understandably very difficult as there is not necessarily a relationship between being a world class athlete and being an outgoing, well spoken person. Perhaps this is where parental coaching has served her best as Samantha is well aware of these “extra responsibilities”. I would venture to say that many a Pro could take Samantha’s advice to “Be nice to spectators, give them time because they are giving you their whole day”.
Testament to Samantha’s maturity and dedication, I spoke with Samantha less than 24 hours after she moved into her freshman dorm room. I don’t know about you, but I know I was not hitting balls in light drizzle and giving an interview at that point in my life. Samantha, on the other hand, took it all in stride and I got the feeling she would have been at the range whether she was going to meet with me or not. While Samantha’s future in golf is yet to be written, she is clearly one of the young stars who have great potential. Despite my Duke loyalty, I will be rooting for at least one Tarheel.