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KPMG – Salas is Early Round Clubhouse Leader

American star opens up to discuss her personal struggles and return to playing good golf again

 
Studio Shot of Lizette Salas
Lizette Salas is a veteran player on the LPGA Tour

American Lizette Salas closed out her first round with four consecutive pars to finish her round at -5 under (67) to take the early lead into the clubhouse. Salas’s round was blemish free, with nothing but pars and birdies – five birdies to be exact. It was a steady and solid round of golf for the American as she contended with the damp morning course conditions and the inevitable “mud balls” that often come with those conditions.


“We started with pretty wet conditions this morning, but the greens are rolling extremely pure. I had a really good warmup. I was really confident coming into this week, and I think my game really suits this golf course and kept it boring. That's pretty much the game plan. I'm really confident in my pre-shot routine and knowing my ball flight and how to capitalize on these holes. So, staying committed to each shot, and even when it's not as pure as I want it to, I'm missing in the right spots, and I'm able to get up and down for par.


I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Today’s rounds marked one of Salas’s best rounds this season – a fact that was not lost on her either as she attributed much of it to her improved attitude and mental health. While speaking to the reporters after her round, Salas decided to share her experiences from the past year that had led to the deterioration of her mental and emotional state to the point that it affected her play. It was a very heartfelt and at times emotional discussion in which she shared her struggles of living in a pandemic world and the personal adversity that came with it, particularly last year.


Iron shote from Salas to the green
Salas playing an approach shot to the green at the 2021 KPMG Women's PGA Championship

“That was a really tough year for me. It was probably one of the lowest points of my career mentally, but I am so lucky to have a strong backbone and team to tell me when I'm -- just to be there for me. I think we're on an upward trend, and golf is a lot more fun right now. We're just looking forward to that Solheim Cup in a few months.”


She went on to further describe her experiences in a little more detail and that it was a combination of factors that collectively accumulated and eventually wore her down even more. As a 31-year old veteran of the LPGA, Salas had grown accustomed to life as a professional golfer with constant travel and having golf as her main focus. So, naturally, she did her best to adjust to a much more sedentary and confined life in 2020, being around her family continuously in Los Angeles, but as the pandemic went on, it began taking a toll on her emotional and mental health.


“I really didn't like myself in 2020, and I think with the whole COVID and not being able to work and have golf as my outlet, that really hit hard. As much as I love my family and loved being around them, it was tough. I homeschooled my nephew for about two months and I said, No more, please. But I understand that everyone had to go through something, and it was hard for me to even speak about it just because I felt like other people are going through the same thing. Why do I need to feel sorry for myself? Over time, it accumulated and got worse, and when I finally got out here, it was just – it was so bad that the golf couldn't help.”

As the year wore on, Salas began feeling like her life as a professional golfer was fading away and she struggled with adjusting to this new reality, leaving her feeling a little unprepared.


“I guess the identity of me being a pro golfer and not really living that lifestyle, but it was accumulation of a lot of other things. I had to rely on some people, and they were there for me. You know, it takes time. I had to take care of my mental health, and that's something that a lot of people don't really take into consideration. I think for me coming from a Hispanic background, it's very hard to talk about that, but I'm very fortunate to have a team that was willing to bend over backwards to help me and to get me to where I am right now.”

 

Lizette Salas and her Caddy John chatting putt strategy
Early First Round Leader Lizette Salas taking measure of an important putt with her caddy at the 2021 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
 

As part of her process, Salas began working with her team, coaches, trainers and agent, to find ways to work more effectively together. She also began reading books as a way of taking her mind away from the immediate situation and to help her decompress and eventually sleep. It was at the Pure Silk event earlier this year that Salas felt she reached a turning point in her recovery – the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.


“Pure Silk was the light. I started seeing a little bit more light. Just being in that at Kingsmill, I had a lot of good memories. John (her former caddy) was back on the bag again. I had a new putter and new toys, and I was playing the golf I know how. That really just lit a spark in me.


“I started reading books because I had a hard time falling to sleep, and to put the phone away really just slowed everything down and I was able decompress and let go of whatever was going on up in my brain. I was finally able to relax and play the golf I know how.”


One of the books that made an impression on her was “I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" – a book by author Erika Sánchez. It resonated with Salas as she said that she found much of her experiences being recounted and explored in the book. She also found some inspiration in a book by Frida Kalo, a well known Mexican visual artist and painter.


“I started reading this book called I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. I started reading that, and I thought it was a biography of myself. I started reading this Frida Kalo book that talks about how her mentality can go into like modern day issues about loving yourself, self-confidence. And when you look back at her history, she did things her way and enjoyed her own process. So, I've just been highlighting a few things here and there. It really just – and it puts me to sleep. It's a win-win.”


Lizette Salas chipping her ball close to the pin
Greenside Chip Shot by Lizette Salas

In posting a 67 (-5 under) in today’s round, Salas recorded her lowest round in a major this season. With her improved play in recent weeks, finishing the Pure Silk event with a share of 5th place and a share of 6th place at last week’s Meijer Classic, Salas believes that she has learned much about herself and has grown as a person, moving in the right direction – both on the course and off.


“I think it's a new Lizette with a new appreciation for the people around me. It's been a rocky road, but I'm finally seeing the results that I want. My team – again, my team is very happy for me, and also my family too. It's been hard for them too, and sometimes they don't even know what to say. It's been hard for everybody.”


If Lizette Salas continues her solid play on the course, she will find herself back on the Solheim Cup team and more importantly, as an individual confident that she has not only weathered a difficult time in her life, but has come out the other side an even better person for it.

 

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