By Jason Krump
As she walked off the green after sinking a birdie putt on the eighth hole (her 17th of the final round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament) Kim Welch’s caddie said something that caught her attention.
“He said that’s probably the biggest putt you ever made in your life.”
Welch moved to 3-under-par with the birdie but wasn’t comfortable yet.
“I knew in my head that I needed to get to 4-under to at least get into a playoff,” she recalled. “I didn’t know if I was going to be safe or not, but I figured 4-under would get me into a playoff and that top 20.”
Securing a top 20 finish meant securing membership to the LPGA Tour in 2013.
And all that stood between her and the tour was a 12-foot birdie putt on the ninth green of the LPGA International Golf Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.
For the second time in a half-hour span, Welch was faced with the biggest putt of her life.
“I was pretty nervous over that one,” she admitted.
“I almost got emotional before I hit the putt,” Welch remembered. “I was on the brink of crying. It was a weird feeling, almost like I was going through my reaction before I hit the putt.
“I just knew it was going to go in.”
It did, rolling right in the heart of the cup.
As it turned out Welch needed both putts, ending the tournament one shot clear of a playoff. The birdie-birdie end to her round earned Welch an 11th place finish, and a treasured spot on the LPGA Tour.
It was certainly not the first time Welch made a pressure putt. She rolled in countless putts as a collegiate player for the Cougars from 2001-05.
As a sophomore, she earned All-American honors after finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships, becoming the first WSU golfer, man or woman, to earn that honor. She repeated as an All-American the next year after leading the nation with five tournament wins. As a senior, she tied for third at Pac-10 Championships, the highest finish at the conference championships by any WSU golfer, man or woman.
In all, Welch left WSU with 11 career wins, 31 top-10 finishes and 40 top-25 efforts, all school records.
When Welch first visited WSU on a November recruiting trip she remembered seeing snow on the ground. A Sacramento native, it was the first time she saw snow. However, it was also the first time she experienced what Pullman offers.
“From the moment I stepped onto campus there was such a sense of community. I’ve never felt that before,” Welch said. “It’s such a great college town. Every single person that lives in and around Pullman is supporting the school. It’s such a warm feeling for me, a family feeling.
“I think that’s why I did so well at WSU,” Welch explained. “I felt support from everywhere, from the professors to everyone in the athletic department.”
And as she begins play on the LPGA Tour in 2013, Welch plans to apply her experiences at WSU in the professional ranks.
“Looking back at the four years I spent at WSU, I remember I was so confident in what I was doing and I had lost some of that,” she said.
But Welch regained that confidence in 2012 by going back to what worked for her at WSU.
“I did my own thing,” she said. “I learned how to trust myself again and my ability instead of trying to emulate somebody else. I never did any of that in college.”
What she did do at WSU was put together a career unprecedented at the school.
“Being a Cougar gives you fight. That’s the biggest thing. You learn how to fight for everything. You have so much pride being a Cougar. I still carry that with me and I still have that fight in me. I know nothing is ever going to be handed to me on a silver platter. Everything I get I’m going to have to fight for, and I do.”