Roig a welcome addition at Futures opener

Kyle Roig during the 2011 Harder Hall Invitational

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – If the LPGA Futures Tour is meant to usher in a new generation of pros, then the golf world should welcome Kyle Roig with open arms. Her playing partners did Friday in the opening round of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at Lake Region Yacht and Country Club, and it’s only a matter of time before more exposure turns the easy-going Roig into a fan favorite.

Roig, a 17-year-old UCLA signee, was one of the final players to enter the field at the Futures Tour season opener. When Kentucky sophomore Ashleigh Albrecht, who had gained an exemption by winning the Harder Hall, withdrew with an injury, Roig found out she was the next in line. The call came Sunday, and Roig, who hails from Pembroke Pines, Fla., by way of Puerto Rico, had her shoes laced up for the morning wave less than a week later. She came out of the gate with an even-par 72 in her first major professional event, despite missing a few putts inside 5 feet.

“I was a little nervous,” Roig admitted afterward. “I wasn’t sure how the girls were going to react because I’m an amateur.”

Just fine, it turns out. Roig has played a handful of Suncoast Tour events, a mini-tour circuit in Florida, and recognized a few familiar faces in Winter Haven. One of those was of LPGA veteran Lisa Strom, who played in the same group as Roig on Friday. Strom, who recently accepted a position as an assistant coach at Ohio State, spent much of the day chatting with Roig about college. At the end of the round, Strom applauded Roig’s lightning-fast pace of play and offered a go-get-em-kid nod.

Quick pace of play? Respect for her elders? Yes, this kiddo will fit in fine when the pro circuit eventually becomes her primary playground.

Roig is past the junior circuit era of her life, but now it’s on to a full-time slate of amateur events. She’ll enter a handful of USGA qualifiers, and also will try her hand at links golf this summer, at the Ladies British Open Amateur, to be played in July at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Roig was once relegated solely to the Florida golf circuits, but it’s clear she’s not afraid to take them across the country (i.e., committing to UCLA) and the world.

“I’ve always been a pretty good ballstriker, but I’ve always had a bunch of things on my mind, like what if I do this, what if this happens, oh, there’s a tree over there,” Roig explained. “Now I just play, try to have fun. If I have a bad round, learn from it, try to learn as much as I can from other players and from (my mistakes). I think I’ve grown more as a person than a player, and that’s what’s helped me.”

She’s not sad to leave the junior tour behind for a more mature level of play. But as she was quickly reminded, Roig never has been one to take herself too seriously. In the world of pro golf, that’s a breath of fresh air.

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