March 26, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Seminole women's golfer Kristin Tamulis was born to be a golfer - literally.
Tamulis' mother, Carol, went into labor with Kristin while on the family's golf course in Michigan. From that point early in her life, the All-America candidate can't remember a time when she wasn't on a golf course or didn't have a golf club in her hand.
"My dad was golf professional and I was always at the golf course," said Tamulis. "I picked up my first club when I was three years old. I would walk around the course and play just for fun. I can't remember not being on a golf course."
Tamulis is still playing for fun as one of the nation's top collegiate golfers. She played in the U.S. Women's Open last summer and won the individual title at the Lady Gator Invitational in March for her first collegiate victory. She is bidding to become the first three-time All-ACC honoree in Seminole golf history and is currently ranked 18th nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index
Tamulis' stellar individual national ranking has helped the Seminoles to a top-25 national ranking. The Seminoles, who have been ranked as high as 12th nationally this year, are ranked 21st in the nation heading into this weekend's Bryan National Collegiate in Browns Summit, N.C.
Rankings have become common place for Florida State since Tamulis' arrival as a freshman in 1999. The Seminoles have played in the NCAA Tournament twice during her first three years and are on pace for a third consecutive appearance this season. The team has been ranked among the nation's top-50 in each of the last three seasons and finished fourth at the highly competitive ACC Championship last spring. Tamulis has been ranked in the nation's top 50 in each poll during the last two years and is currently enjoying the highest individual ranking of her career.
"Everything I have done in my career has helped me be successful this year," said Tamulis. "I have had some great teachers and coaches, including my parents, during my career and they have all helped me become a solid player. I have been very lucky and have learned the game from people who really know the game of golf."
Tamulis first learned the game as a participant in her father Walter's annual summer junior clinic. She picked up the game so quickly and became so advanced at an early age that she found herself playing with and against older boys.
"I played with whomever I could play with when I was young," said Tamulis. "My mom was always the one to take me places but my dad, even today if I have any problems or if I have any questions, has always been my teacher."
Tamulis began playing competitive golf at age 11 and earned immediate success. She won the junior Maxfli Tournament in the state of Michigan during her first competitive year and won the event four of the six years she was eligible to play in the event. Tamulis also found success on the Power-Bilt Michigan junior golf tour and had the lowest score on the schedule in 1999.
While maintaining their residence and keeping up their course in Michigan, the family moved to Naples, Fla., where Tamulis became a standout at Naples High School in 1995. She earned four letters as a member of her high school team and was named the Naples Beach Hotel Golfer of the Year for 1998-99.
Florida State head coach Debbie Dillman, also a Michigan native, began recruiting Tamulis during the summer prior to her senior year in high school. Dillman, a long-time colleague of Walter Tamulis, convinced the family to send their budding golf star on a visit to Tallahassee that fall. Tamulis was also being heavily recruited by Michigan State, Princeton and a number of other schools in Florida, quickly fell in love with FSU during her visit.
"I never really thought about playing at Florida State until Coach Dillman came for that visit," said Tamulis. "I was being heavily recruited by Michigan State and I could have gone to Princeton because they showed interest in me. The biggest thing for me was the people at Florida State - the girls on the team, the coaches and the support staff in the athletic department - they were all really nice. That was the biggest thing for me. I felt really comfortable here," she said.
Tamulis cancelled her official visit to Michigan State the night she returned home from Tallahassee and immediately committed to Florida State.
"Kris has been such a wonderful asset to our program throughout her career," said Dillman. "Her consistent play and overall improvement has helped us become a championship-caliber team on the course while her perseverance and success academically has helped motivate other members of our team to achieve off the course. She is the leader of our team in many ways and has a bright future ahead of herself."
Tamulis immediately took to Tallahassee and Tallahassee immediately took to Tamulis. She joined the starting line-up upon her arrival was one of the Seminoles' top golfers as a freshman.
Tamulis enjoyed her coming out party during her first spring as a Seminole. She earned back-to-back 11th-place finishes at the Ryder/Florida Championship and in her first ACC championship. Tamulis also carded her first collegiate hole-in-one at the Lady Gator Invitational.
Her steady improvement has been evident not only in her individual scores but Florida State's team scores and tournament finishes. Tamulis has improved her stroke average by nearly four strokes and has led the Seminoles to eight top-five team finishes during her career. The Seminoles won the team championship at the 2002 Ryder/Florida Championship - the first team championship for the Seminoles since 1998 and the 15th in Dillman's Seminole career.
While excelling on the course during her career, she has also performed well in the classroom. Tamulis is on track to graduate in April with a double major in multinational business operations and Spanish. She earned Dean's List honors during the fall 1999 and spring 2001 semesters and has been named to the ACC Honor Roll in each of her three years in school.
"Multinational business is the study of different cultures and how they conduct business. It entails so many things - marketing, cross-cultural management, finance and accounting - anything related to business," said Tamulis. "It's a fascinating major. I have come to learn that you can't take such an ethno-centric approach when you are dealing business in the United States as opposed to dealing business in say Japan. Everything works so much differently in different countries. I have also studied Spanish since I was in the second grade and I wanted to continue studying that language."
With all the great memories Tamulis has accumulated during her career as a Seminole, her top golfing experience came when she played in the 2002 U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
"Playing in the U.S. Open last summer is my best golf experience," said Tamulis. "I don't think anything compares to the feeling of beating not only a professional golfer who plays on the LPGA Tour but also college players who you are still competing against.
"We had a great time," said Tamulis who worked with current Florida State teammate Carrie Sordel as her caddie during both qualifying rounds and during the U.S. Open. "Just being there and seeing all of the people was great. We had a really good time. We played a practice round with Kris Tschetter. Carrie got her picture taken with Karrie Webb. I played with Tonya Gill and Angela Buczemski. We saw everybody. We were at the airport sitting next to Laura Davies waiting for our courtesy car to come. It was really neat."
Despite realizing the third best stroke improvement in the field during the second round of the event, Tamulis unfortunately did not make the cut as the field was pared down heading into the third-round of the most prestigious tournament in women's golf. Tamulis carded a five-over par 75 in the second round and finished in a tie for 135th with a two-round score of 158. She missed the cut by 10 strokes.
On the way to improving her score by eight strokes, Tamulis was much more consistent in round two as compared to round one. She improved her averaged drive by nearly 11 yards, hit 14 percent more fairways (71 percent - 57 percent), hit 16 percent more greens (44 percent - 28), carded three birdies (she had one in round one) and had nine pars (she had eight in round one) in the second round as compared to the first round.
Tamulis finished the first major event of her career two strokes ahead of Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lopez. Lopez finished with a two-day total of 160.
"Playing in the U.S. Open last summer has given me a lot of confidence this year," said Tamulis. "I was one of maybe five college players who played in the event. You also learn to deal with the spectators and the galleries at a tournament like the U.S. Open. I don't really like when people come out to watch me play. I just want to be out there playing golf. Being at the Open with thousands of people and huge grandstands, including my parents, I came to appreciate the fans and realize that they are rooting for you and they want you do great things. I loved performing for the fans and hitting great shots."
While her first U.S. Open will undoubtedly be one of life's great memories for Tamulis, it surely won't be her only one.
"I've got a ton of great memories," she said. "I have been playing competitively for 11 years. It's my life. Not that golf defines me as a person but I have met wonderful people through the sport. I have come to Florida State and been involved in not only athletics but also a wonderful academic program. It's been a great way to grow up."
It seems as if Kristin Tamulis had growing up planned all along - literally.
By Chuck Walsh Florida State Sports Information