2004: Big-time name, big-time game

Tucson, Ariz.

If you’re searching for the next young American superstar, here’s a name to throw into the hat, although it’s a considerably larger hat – near 10-gallon sized – and you’ll likely need a pronunciation key. Stacy Prammanasudh is her name, simply Stacy P to those close to the fiery Oklahoman. By all early indications, her game is bigger than her name.

Beth Bauer and Natalie Gulbis are the players mentioned most often when the subject of young American talent arises. At the Welch’s/Fry’s Championship last week, Prammanasudh, 24, did something Gulbis never has done and something Bauer hasn’t done in 18 months – finish fourth in an LPGA event. Prammanasudh (pronounced PRAH-mahna-sood) shot 66-69-63-67 for a 15-under-par 265 total to earn $40,108 in the opening event of her first full year on tour. Bauer missed the cut by a shot and Gulbis tied for 50th.

“A lot of them have always gotten a little more hype than I have because I didn’t play on a national level,” said Prammanasudh, who married Pete Upton Jan. 24 in Hawaii but opted to keep her maiden name for recognition purposes. “It’s just something that I’ve been used to. I’ve always been the underdog so to speak. Because of that, I don’t feel like there is any pressure on me.”

Prammanasudh is a rookie by most standards even though the LPGA doesn’t recognize her as such. With nonexempt LPGA status in 2003, Prammanasudh opted to chase her exempt LPGA card via a top-5 finish on the Futures Tour money list (she won twice and finished first in earnings with $57,760). Monday qualifying or seeking exemptions into LPGA events would have meant fewer opportunities to make money on the Futures Tour. In the three LPGA events she played, Prammanasudh made two cuts, including a tie for 11th at the Safeway Ping.

“Playing three events in a year takes away my chances of being Rookie of the Year but Player of the Year is still out there,” Prammanasudh says without a hint of a smirk or arrogance, letting you know the statement was not in jest.

Now that Prammanasudh has arrived on the LPGA for a full season there is no reason to believe she won’t succeed. She has battled the odds her entire life. Prammanasudh’s father/caddie, Pravat “Lou” Prammanasudh, recalls his young daughter returning home one afternoon from grade school in Enid, Okla., asking why friends seemed to be living a more extravagant lifestyle than she.

“I was working in a machine shop. I didn’t have any money. I told her that if she wanted to be a champion she would have to do it without being like her friends,” says 65-year-old Lou, a retiree who moved from Thailand to Enid in 1966 to attend a local business college.

Stacy took her father’s words to heart at about the same time she fell in love with golf. She knew in order to pursue her newfound love she’d have to learn how to play a country club sport on a shoestring budget. The Prammanasudhs found empty Oklahoma fields to practice in, hitting dozens of shag balls that would have to be retrieved every several minutes. Little income meant little opportunity. Little opportunity meant little recognition.

Thank goodness, little Stacy had a big heart. Nowhere was that more evident than at the University of Tulsa, where getting a college education was the only thing Lou Prammanasudh ever demanded of his daughter. She excelled athletically and academically as a three-time Academic All-American and a four-time first-team All-American. Prammanasudh’s 10 career college victories were one short of the school record set by Nancy Lopez, the 2005 U.S. Solheim Cup captain with whom Prammanasudh hopes to become friendly in the next 16 months.

Lopez was in Tucson as an analyst for The Golf Channel and raved about all phases of Prammanasudh’s game, especially her poise.

“She looks great out there,” Lopez said. “She looks very solid, her swing is aggressive and she looked very comfortable, like she has been here a while.”

Prammanasudh’s swing is a bit unorthodox but extremely consistent. At the Welch’s/Fry’s Championship she hit 73.1 percent of fairways, 79.2 percent of greens and putted like a woman possessed. For being so petite – a slender 5-foot-6 – Prammanasudh has above-average length, averaging 270.5 yards per drive, more than sufficient to succeed on a consistent basis.

Prammanasudh has high expectations for the season, saying she wants to finish in the top 20 in earnings, a feat accomplished by Lorena Ochoa last year and Bauer the year before, both rookies at the time. If Prammanasudh’s performance at the Welch’s/Fry’s is any indication, she’ll accomplish her goal.

As for being recognized with Bauer and Gulbis as the next young American superstar, Prammanasudh’s name should be thrown into the hat, whether you can pronounce it or not.

“Of course I want to be the next big star, everybody does,” she said. “Right now I’m trying to play week to week and do the best that I can. The rest will take care of itself.”

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