The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

January 5, 2014

'Once in a lifetime': Prammanasudh calls it a career

ENID, Okla. — After her first year on the LPGA Tour, Stacy Prammanasudh gave Oakwood Country Club pro Tim Mendenhall a “Christmas present’’ — a golf bag signed by all the pros on the LPGA circuit.

That bag remains in Mendenhall’s pro shop and will always remain there as a testament to the recently retired Prammanasudh’s success on Tour and what she meant to golf locally.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime situation for us to see someone that good and that talented to come through here,’’ Mendenhall said. “To see what she’s accomplished from junior golf to high school to college to the LPGA is pretty remarkable.’’

She won $3,540,645 in 11 years on Tour, including victories in the 2005 Franklin American Mortgage Championship and the 2007 Fields Open in Hawaii.

Prammanasudh played for the winning U.S. team in the 2007 Solheim Cup, beating then No. 2-ranked Suzanne Petersen in singles.

“Her pro career was pretty much what we expected it would be,’’ Mendenhall said. “We knew she would be successful, the only question was how big she was going to make it. She did everything she set out to do.’’

Her legacy would have been impressive even if she didn’t spend a day on Tour.

She was a three-time state champion at Enid High School (1995, 1997, 1998) and was a four-time All-American at the University of Tulsa where her 10 tournament championships were second in school history behind the legendary Nancy Lopez (11).

Her game was developed not on the country clubs, but by her father, Louie, at Meadowlake Municipal Golf Course. Her older sister, Keri, was a state runner-up in golf at EHS and had a successful career at Southwest Missouri State.

“She is a great example for young people that you don’t have to have a lot of money or belong to a country club to be successful in golf,’’ Mendenhall said. “The other kids had swing coaches. All she had for her was Louie ... what she did, she did all on her own. It shows what you can do if you put in a lot of hard work and determination and have a goal in life.’’

Louie Prammanasudh never pressured his daughters.

“They always looked like they were having fun when they played,’’ Mendenhall said.

Oakwood Country Club eventually did give Prammanasudh a scholarship, allowing her to play and practice on the course. She spent many evenings honing her game and getting to know members and Mendenhall.

What Mendenhall saw was a girl with a rare drive to succeed.

“I’ve seen a lot of girls who don’t want to beat their best friends in a certain sport,’’ Mendenhall said. “She didn’t want to beat you by one, she wanted to beat you by 20. She really poured it on. She knew what every shot meant. She never gave up. She was always grinding to shoot the best score she could shoot that day, no matter what the other girls were playing like.’’

Mendenhall saw that first hand in so-called “friendly’’ games of chipping around the greens.

“She didn’t like to lose even when she was 13 or 14,’’ he said

Veteran Enid High golf coach David Lee saw that drive when Prammanasudh was in grade school.

“I had her at Eisenhower (Elementary) and she was the same way in track (Little Olympics) that she was in golf,’’ Lee said. “She wanted to win everything — the high jump, the 100 ....’’

Lee remembers that “it took a while’’ for Prammanasudh to get over finishing second at state as a sophomore (first year as the EHS coach). It only increased her drive.

“Nobody could even come close to her work ethic,’’ Lee said. “Louie would keep the (car) lights on so she could chip and putt on No. 5 (at Meadowlake) before she went home. She had the greatest work ethic of any athlete that I coached.’’

Coaches across the state still talk of Prammanasudh today.

“Jeff Dority of Edmond North said she was the greatest golfer of all time in Oklahoma and I don’t know if anybody would dispute that,’’ Lee said. “Nobody could do the things she could with her short game, irons and drives, or was as competitive.’’

Lee’s favorite memory of Prammanasudh was a round that didn’t go in the books at Midwest City’s John Conrad Invitational. She was 15-under after 14 holes when the tournament was rained out.

“She was on fire,’’ Lee said. “She eagled both par fives and was hitting the greens with every approach and making every putt ... she would have had a course record for sure.’’

Mendenhall’s favorite memory was the Solheim Cup. He was watching on TV with Louie and Keri when she beat Petersen

“It was so special watching her compete for her country and beating the No. 2 player in the world,’’ Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall was watching on TV when she won the Franklin American Mortgage Championship for her first LPGA victory. She was battling Ochoa, then the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Prammanasudh hit a shot on No. 17 within a foot of the hole to ice the win.

“We all got very excited,’’ Mendenhall said. “It showed me she had what it took to win a tournament on the LPGA Tour.’’

Mendenhall helped get Prammanasudh started on the LPGA Tour when he and nine other Oakwood members put up $50,000 to sponsor her when she went on the tour after she graduated from TU. She earned her Tour card after a successful stint on the Futures Tour, which Mendenhall said helped prepare her for the diversity and travel of pro golf.

Louie Prammanasudh had talked with Mendenhall about possible financial arrangements.

“We just wanted to make sure she had a chance to compete and not worry about her financial situation,’’ Mendenhall said. “We weren’t out to make money off her. We had a lot of fun following her. She paid us back by just her great play on Tour and what she accomplished. It made us all feel good that we did our part to get her started.’’

Mendenhall and Lee are just as proud of Prammanasudh, the person. Her personality hasn’t changed much since she graduated from EHS.

“She was so grounded, thanks to her parents (Louie and Brenda),’’ Lee said. “She was very encouraging to all the other girls on the team.’’

Prammanasudh married Pete Upton on Jan. 24, 2004, and gave birth to a son, Ryp Walker in January 2012.

“When she went to college, she told me she was going to play on Tour until she was 50,’’ Mendenhall said. “She said she would give it her best for 10 to 12 years and then get married and start a family, which is exactly what she did.

“I’m proud of her for having done that and not travel all around the world and leave her kids with somebody else. She wants to be a good mother and a good role model for her kids. I know it’s tough to give up a career like that and I am proud of her and I respect her for doing that.’’

Prammanasudh never forgot her roots. Louie, her first caddy, caddied for her in her last tournament — the recent CME Group Titleholders.

“She still has the family values from the way she was raised by Louie and Brenda,’’ Mendenhall said. “She didn’t want to put herself in the limelight like some of these players have. She pretty much wanted to play golf and live her life — a simple life — she didn’t want to give that up which is pretty much the direction she took.

“She had the looks, the personality, the smile that could have carried her just about anywhere she wanted to go. She is still Stacy P to everybody around here. She will always be that way.’’

Mendenhall and Lee’s only regret is they won’t get to follow her anymore on Tour. Even as a part-time player, she still won $189,000 this season.

“People would always be asking me how she was doing,’’ Mendenhall said. “She has been very instrumental in golf around here.’’

Her legacy could be seen in Enid’s 15 straight trips to the girls state tournament at one time and producing college golfers such as Aly Seng, Rachel Fetty and Jennifer Butler among others.

“I can’t tell you how much of an inspiration she was to girls in our community,’’ Lee said.

Prammanasudh’s golf bag still gets attention from players who didn’t realize she represented Oakwood on Tour.

Mendenhall won’t ever say what his record against Prammanasudh was — accept he wants to play her one last time — with her on the back tees and him on the Seniors.

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