USC alumna says keeping it fun is key to LPGA Tour success

Katie Burnett has seen her name at the top of the leader board at one of the world’s most famous golf courses at one of the world’s biggest tournaments. She has seen her name engraved on trophies. Now, after demand from her fans, the University of South Carolina alumna will be seeing her name on T-shirts, hoodies, hats and bracelets.

Katie Burnett demonstrating one of the best swings in the world (photo provided)

Katie Burnett demonstrates one of the best swings in the world. (photo provided)

“Her fans were dying for T-shirts and sweatshirts,” said Meredith Taylor, Burnett’s business manager and former USC teammate and roommate. “I wasn’t going to do it until next year,” Taylor said, but as request after request came in, she changed plans and arranged for the new line of Team Burnett fan gear to be available for preorders Oct. 16, Burnett’s birthday. “That’s my birthday present to her,” Taylor said.

Burnett was a two-time All-American at USC, the school’s all-time scoring leader in women’s golf and a magna cum laude graduate in 2012. She since has won nearly $300,000 on the LPGA Tour but said she’s far from finished working to improve. She plays in tournaments almost year round and is heading to China and then India this month with practices in between.

Burnett said the constant work is something every golfer faces.

“Even if you think about Tiger Woods, in the 12 years he was No. 1 in the world, he was still working on himself every day,” she said.

As her success has grown, so has her need to take part in things off the course like a recent photo shoot.

“This part with the photo shoot and being the center of attention with 10 people around you is not my favorite thing,” she said with a smile. “I am a very shy person, but I don’t mind talking, particularly if someone talks to me. I can always answer.”

Having a close friend like Taylor running the business side of things for her makes it easier for Burnett.

“That was all her work,” she said of the new line of gear. “She just told me to show up and take some pictures.”

Burnett said despite her shyness, she loves doing things for those who cheer her on.

“Fans are why we’re able to do what we do,” she said. “Any athlete or any entertainer in general. Not only is it uplifting, it also helps me be able to do what I love to do.”

Burnett twice has played her way into contention at the British Open, both times when St. Andrews in Scotland — one of the world’s oldest golf courses — played host to the event. As any golf lover would be, she said she was awestruck by the experience.

Burnett selecting a club at St. Andrews (photo provided)

Burnett selecting a club at St. Andrews (photo provided)

“I was 6 under at St. Andrews through 16 holes,” she said. “There’s something about the British Open that really gets me going. It was just an incredible experience.”

Experiences on and off the course are a big part of the focus for Burnett, despite all the hard work which goes with being a professional golfer.

“That’s been my thing all along. I want to have as much fun as possible,” she said. “When I travel places, I want to go and see them. I don’t want to just be at the hotel and at the gold course. I want to know that when I was out there I experienced something and I had fun doing it. If I’m not having fun, what’s the point in being out here?”

She said South Africa has been her favorite place to visit so far because “I’m a big animal lover and a big outdoorsy person. I’ve gotten to do things I dreamed of doing as a kid, like holding a baby lion.”

Burnett is not required by tour rules to play the upcoming China and India events, but she said she’ll be there because she wants to be, with a bit of vacation in between.

“I’m going to go to Bali, in Indonesia, which will probably be my next favorite thing I’ve done,” she said.

You can follow Burnett’s travels and check out the Team Burnett gear at her website.

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