Aubrey Kragen (AK): Can you start by describing the Q-School process and your emotions when it was finally over and you had earned your full LPGA tour card?
Karen Chung (KC): Q-School is a qualifying tournament to get your professional LPGA tour card. There are three stages that lasted from August to just a couple weeks ago. From the first stage, we started off with 400 girls, and they took the top 90. Then we moved on to the second stage, and it was 180 girls and they cut it down to 70. Then the final stage was 150, and I think the top 45 got conditional, but the top 20 got their full status. So I nudged into the top 20, and, wow, it was a long, long week. Including the practice round days, I think I was in Florida for two and a half weeks. The actual tournament was five days long, and after I finished and I knew that I made it, I didn't really believe it. But it happened.
AK: How incredible was it to be one of the top 20 out of 400 original participants?
KC: I didn't think I was going to make it that far. I kept telling my family, 'Even if I don't make it this time, I made it all the way here from 400 girls, so I'll take that.' But I got really lucky, and I made it.
AK: I'm sure that playing on the LPGA tour has been a dream of yours since you first started playing golf. Why did you decide to come play in college first?
KC: There are a lot of girls out there who just turn pro and don't experience college. And college is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Yes, you can come back and do whatever you want, but I just wanted to experience college right, so I decided to finish it first and then go pro.
AK: What are some things you learned here that have prepared you for the next step?
KC: As much as I don't want to admit it, I think college made me grow up and learn more about myself and my game. The girls on the team are some of the best players I've ever been around. They've pushed me to my limits, and I've learned a lot.
AK: Three of your teammates entered Q-School with you last month. What was that like, and did you all support each other along the way?
KC: There were four of us out of an eight-member team at USC, so I think Coach was panicking a little. Gabriella Then and Victoria Morgan played with me up until second stage, and then Tiffany Chan made it to final stage with me. But it felt like a team event for us, because everywhere we went, we wore the same SC clothes. So it was nice, and we always supported all four of each other. It was sad to see two of them leave after second stage, but Tiffany and I fought all the way.
AK: What did it mean to you to be the only current college player to earn the full tour card?
KC: That was really cool to know. I was just shocked, because I thought there would be other college players that made it. There were a number of really good college players.
AK: You graduate in the spring, right? How do you plan to complete your degree once you've gone pro and what will it mean to have graduated from USC?
KC: I have one more class left. I'm going to travel and try to finish the class at the same time. I have some experience with that, because I had a full course load this semester and had to miss chunks some time for Q-School. I got really lucky to get to this point. Just being able to get my tour card and getting my degree from USC have been dreams of mine, so I'm so happy with how it all worked out.
AK: What's the next step for you as a new professional golfer?
KC: As of now, I'm still trying to figure out how the priority list and rankings work, to see which tournaments I get into. But I think the first tournament I'm playing is in the Bahamas at the end of January, so I'm looking forward to that and all the international tournaments. I went to Ireland for a tournament a couple years ago when I was a junior golfer. Starting my professional career in the Bahamas is not too shabby, and I think there are a lot of international swings, so that will be fun.
AK: Lastly, what are your goals as a professional golfer?
KC: For this first year out, I want to play well enough to secure my tour card for next year, obviously. But ultimately, I want to be one of the best out there, so hopefully I achieve that.