Carter is no stranger to high-level tournaments. Having played in the 2005 U.S. Women's Open and three U.S. Women's Amateurs (2005, 2007, 2009), the Ole Miss all-star recorded a win and five top-10 finishes on the Futures Tour last year after just one season as a professional golfer. And the 24-year-old is hoping for an even smoother transition onto the big stage.
Golf Digest Woman: How did you become interested in golf?
Dori Carter: I grew up playing several sports, like softball and basketball, and I first started playing golf when I was 7 years old. I grew up on Valdosta Country Club, and golf became my summer sport. My dad is really the one who got me interested in it. We always say he taught me the rules, not how to swing or play the game. He's not very good! I began to focus just on golf once I got into high school.
GDW: And why did you decide to play golf for the University of Mississippi? Seems like so many up-and-coming girls are skipping that step.
DC: College just seemed like the next logical option. Playing at Ole Miss is the best thing I ever did. It's where I developed the most; I needed those years to mature and learn a lot about golf course management. I was a student-athlete and golf was my priority, but I wanted to enjoy the entire college experience. So I was in a sorority, I went to football games and I really enjoyed college life. I could've turned pro early but I was happy where I was and I loved representing Ole Miss.
GDW: And how did college golf help your game?
DC: Michele Drinkard, my college coach, changed the way I prepared for tournaments and practiced for them. Specifically, she taught me how to practice and prepare and do all the work beforehand so that when it came to tournament time, I could just have fun and play. Preparing and scheduling is a major commitment for professional golfers, so I'm really glad she made it a priority.
GDW: And before college, who really shaped your game?
DC: Gale Peterson has been my swing coach since I was 15 years old, which is when I started getting serious about golf. She works at Sea Island. Gale is very swing-specific and technical. In high school, she guided me through a major grip change, and that was huge. And for a long time, we've been working on getting a little more loaded on my right side so I can unload through impact more distance. But Gale keeps it really simple. She knows that if it gets too technical, I can lose it.
GDW: What are your swing thoughts on the course?
DC: I'm completely target-focused on the course, so I don't really have any swing thoughts. I have swing thoughts on the practice range, but on the course I can't be thinking, "You need to get loaded." I'm thinking, "There's the target."
DC: Quickly adjusting to the Futures Tour was huge. I had no idea I'd transition so easily from college golf to professional golf. All I needed was one year on the Futures Tour and one trip to Q School. I'm one for one! I was really nervous about Q School because I'd heard all these stories about the intense pressure. But I prepared beforehand and I didn't get caught up in the mentality that, "OMG, this could define my whole year."
GDW: How are you preparing for the Founders, your first LPGA Tour event as a professional?
DC: I'll play some mini tour events to keep my competitive edge sharp. My last tournament was Q School, so if I don't play in these mini tour events, I'd have a huge gap between tournaments. The competition is really good in these mini tour events, and I take them seriously. I don't want to tee it up at the Founders without having some familiarity with tournament golf. I'll play one more Suncoast Tour event and then the Florida Women's Open on the Cactus Tour the week before the Founders. And since I'm not going to be playing a lot of LPGA tournaments as a rookie, I have to stay competitive elsewhere and not just be a range rat.
GDW: What is your ultimate goal for 2011?
DC: I want to keep my card. I hope Q School in 2010 was the first and last one I'll ever have to go to. Now that I have the card, I want to keep it. And I really want to start off playing good. Since I'll be playing in eight or nine events, I can't really afford to have a bad week or to act like a rookie for too long.
GDW: What will be your biggest challenge this year?
DC: Golf-wise, I'll be fine. I've made it this far, so I know how to hit the ball. But adjusting to the LPGA lifestyle will be tough. Took me a little bit of time to adjust to life on the Futures Tour, so I'm thinking it'll take even more time to adjust to LPGA. And I can't afford that, since I have to be ready to go the second the gun goes off. I need to prepare enough so there won't be any surprises, or at least realize that things won't go exactly as planned. And it'll take me a while to handle things like the media and the large grandstands and the pro-ams and the news rules and regulations. Playing on the LPGA is kind of like getting a promotion--it comes with more responsibilities.
GDW: And who will be your caddie?
DC: Aha, that's a very good question. I'm working on that as we speak, and it's been a challenge so far. I probably won't have a set caddie for the entire year. Ideally, I'd start off with someone who's a perfect fit, but that might be too good to be true. As a rookie, it'd be amazing to have a veteran caddie who would know the courses and how to handle things. But then again, what veteran caddie would want a rookie? Let's just say, it's a work in progress.
GDW: What's your go-to snack on the course?
DC: I eat these sport jellybeans on the course that Jelly Belly makes. They're so good. I don't like to eat a lot on the golf course because it's time consuming and because most foods are messy. But these sport jellybeans come in 100-calories packs. They're small and they aren't messy, and they taste so good!
GDW: How do you stay grounded amidst your newfound promotion to the LPGA Tour?
DC: I have a pretty active social life (laughs). I love meting up with my friends and hanging out with my younger sister, Aldine. She doesn't really play golf, and the majority of my friends aren't golfers, which has always been beneficial because the last thing I want to do is think about golf off the golf course. And if I shoot 68 or 88, they couldn't care less. I go out to dinner with them and go to the movies and just hang out. It's nice to get away from golf. I love golf, and it's my job. But I really like to get away from it. So she's a good person to call when I don't want to talk about golf.
GDW: Does your boyfriend play golf?
DC: Not really. He definitely doesn't take it as seriously as I do. He lives in Atlanta and he's a financial analyst for Home Depot. We met at Ole Miss, and we've dating for two years, off and on. He caddied for me at a Futures Tour event this past summer, but I don't think he'll caddie for me on LPGA Tour. I hope he can come out and watch, though!
GDW: What are the last three songs you downloaded on your iPod?
DC: I'm obsessed with my iPhone--I have more than 2,000 pictures and 3,000 songs. One of my favorite singers right now is Ray LaMontagne (my boyfriend got me into him), so I have pretty much every Ray song out there. And I'm also a country music fan, so I listen to Jason Aldean's latest album. I also listen to David Gray. So country and rock...that's me.
GDW: What's your most prized possession in your golf bag?
DC: I have a little spiral-bound book in my bag, and sometimes I'll write down funny moments and fond memories in it. I hardly look at the book, but my memories are there, just in case something terrible happens mid-round. It's a backup that I can look at and say, "OMG, I remember that day when I slipped and fell and it was so funny." It's a reminder that a mishap on the golf course is just one negative in my life that's been filled with so many great things. If things ever turned bad on golf course I can just look at the little notebook and take my mind off the badness.
GDW: What has been the best advice you've ever been given?
DC: Everyone has said, enjoy it. Especially since I've gotten my card. Some are saying, "Go out there and go get 'em." But the best advice is to just enjoy the moment. It's golf and it's a big deal and it's my job now, but how many people can say they're an LPGA pro? On my worst day, there will probably be about a million people who would gladly trade places with me in a heartbeat. I don't ever want to lose that--this is awesome and I'm living the dream.
GDW: Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
DC: On my Facebook page I've written this quote: "Seek and you shall find." I really like that motto, since it's what I'm trying to do right now. I'm trying to live this dream and follow this path to greatness. I've made it all the way to the LPGA and I want to continue this path. I'm not sure where I'll be in the next year or five years, but I'm out there searching. This quote is a good reminder that I don't want to get caught up in today. I'm here for a purpose. I'm out there looking and trying to figure this out.
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