John Walk: The unusual life of a 17-year-old in the Women’s Open

Posted: July 7, 2015 12:12 am

Four years ago, Mariel Galdiano made headlines across the golfing world when she became one of the youngest golfers ever to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open. Galdiano was only 13 years old back then, when the 66th playing of the Open was held at Broadmoor in Colorado Springs in 2011.
“And that’s when I was the youngest and there was media and autographs and everything. My game was like … my head wasn’t focused on golf,” Galdiano recalled Monday, minutes after stepping off No. 18 at Lancaster Country Club after practicing on the back nine.
Galdiano will be playing in her third U.S. Women’s Open this week when play officially tees off Thursday.
Galdiano, now 17, is still one of the youngest players at LCC. Of course, the 17-year-old most golf fanatics are aware of this week is Lydia Ko, the world’s No. 1 ranked female player.
But Galdiano, from Hawaii, and Ko, a New Zealand native, have led different paths in the golfing world.
“Lydia Ko is my age and she’s done so many amazing things,” Galdiano said. “I think I played in Junior Worlds with her before. And an event in Taiwan. But I didn’t really talk to her.”
So how does a 17-year-old make a life on the pro golf scene? After all, Galdiano will be a senior in high school this coming school year. So during the school year she is constantly juggling travel, golf tournaments and homework.
“I have to do a lot of stuff on the road and emailing teachers and conferencing with them,” said Galdiano, who will attend UCLA upon graduation from Punahou School, a private school in Honolulu.
And then there’s the thing of trying to compete with players like Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr and Amy Yang, a trio that’s currently in the top 12 of the LPGA money rankings. Galdiano practiced with the three of them Monday.
But things have gotten a bit easier for her on such a big stage, thanks to a bit more experience and guidance from her dad, Roger, who serves as her caddie. Even Monday, Galdiano’s dad noticed the moments when his daughter worried about the game of others instead of her own.
“My dad was like, ‘Stop focusing on whatever.’ It’s focusing on my game instead of looking at theirs. Kind of stay grounded and stuff,” Galdiano said.
A bright note from Monday, though, came when Galdiano said she surprised herself on one of the par-fives at LCC.
“I think one of the holes the four of us hit and I out-drove everyone else and I’m like, ‘Oh, man,'” she said.
Drawing most of her power from her lower body, Galdiano admits her skill-set favors the long-distance game. That might actually be a good thing for Galdiano considering that soft conditions might prevail on the course this week.
“It’s more like I hit farther. I’m 5-foot-3 and I hit it 250, 260 (yards),” Galdiano said. “You can only do so much with your arms. You get a lot of your power from down there.”
So while a lot of golf fans will follow the action of Ko, keep an eye on the other 17-year-old, Galdiano, who does have a shot at making the cut this weekend.
“If I don’t make the cut, then we’re probably going to go to Hershey,” she said. “Hopefully I make the weekend, though.”