First Person: Angela Stanford '00
The rising LPGA starhas four tour victories and has moved up to sixth in the world rankings. But as her former TCU coach says, “she is still a humble girl from Saginaw” with a love of TCU and philanthropy.
by Rick Waters '95
Updated: Friday, June 12, 2009
Angela Stanford has her recent play on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour is the result of "a few changes to my swing, but mostly I think it’s just maturity."
You just won the Alumni Association Frog O’ Fame Award — and as a surprise — the Carolyn Dixon Honorary Award for Distinguished Service to Girls and Women in Sport. What did it mean to receive those?
It was very special to me. People know how much I love TCU and many of my friends and family were there. My mom noticed that I was the first female to receive the Frog O’ Fame Award, so that’s a real honor. I almost started crying because I didn’t expect it. Sometimes when you don’t expect it, it just hits you much harder. It’s a great honor and means so much to me.
Your charity and generosity are widely known. This year, your third annual Let Your Light Shine golf tournament set a record, raising $62,000 for the Lena Pope Home and Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County. Why is that such a big part of your life?
I was just raised that if you can help someone, you should do that. I am blessed more than I could have imagined and get to play golf for a living. So I just think it’s what I should do with what I have. I love the Lena Pope Home and what they do to make children’s lives better, and a good friend of mine is involved with Mental Health Mental Retardation. We wanted to work together on a way to raise awareness and raise funds for both causes. It just continues to grow. I grew up in Saginaw, and all the opportunities I had came from the Fort Worth community, so it’s natural for me to want to give back and help the community that helped me.
You also donated money for a new van for the women’s golf team. How did that come about?
Coach Larkin of the women’s golf team and I are good friends and we talk a lot. I had asked what the team needed. I had always given to the Frog Club for scholarships for student-athletes, but I wanted to do something just for the golf team. When I was at TCU during my sophomore year, donors gave money for the team to have a van. It meant so much to us, having something nice to travel in to tournaments. It was so practical and showed how much they cared about us. Well, they still had that van and were wanting to get a new one. So I knew that was something I had to be a part of, since it meant so much to me as a player.
What’s your favorite memory or moment from your TCU days?
[Laughing] Actually, it came in that old van. My favorite movie was “Tommy Boy” and we would watch it whenever we would travel somewhere in the van. We knew all the dialogue and could quote it. It was just fun to be together in the van with the team.
Why’d you choose TCU?
I was not highly recruited, and I knew I didn’t want to leave Texas. TCU and SMU offered me scholarships and Texas A&M offered a partial. So I didn’t have a lot of choices. The fact that Coach Larkin saw something in me, believed in me and took a chance, meant that much to me. I think she knew better than I did what I was capable of. She believed in me more than I did. So TCU was always the top choice. And I knew I didn’t want to live in Dallas.
You’ve always been proud you came from a down-to-earth, modest background. I read that you only recently traded in your Ford Mustang for a Lexus.
Both my parents still work for the City of Saginaw and growing up there is a part of who I am. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of being a Horned Frog. I played municipal courses growing up, and I’m just grateful for what I have had and won’t ever forget where I came from.
What inspires you?
I really embrace the underdog mentality on and off the course. The people who I really admire are the ones that are overlooked initially or underestimated, and they overcome it. It's too easy to give up when everything seems to go against you. It's too easy to make excuses or settle. They people who keep up the fight and scratch out a way to succeed give me inspiration. It makes me want to get the maximum out of myself.
Speaking of underdogs, the last two seasons you’ve had three of your four tour wins and have shot up into the top 10 of the Rolex Rankings. What was the key to really getting on track?
I’ve made a few changes to my swing, but mostly I think it’s just maturity. This is my ninth year on tour, and I think I’ve needed a little more time than others. I’m enjoying my game right now. I didn’t always like to chip and putt, but now I do. My fitness routine has also helped a lot too.
But you had a rough patch a few years ago too, didn’t you, almost prompting you to walk away from the game?
I got my first win on tour in 2003, which was my third season. The next week, I got into a playoff and lost at the U.S. Women’s Open. I don’t think I handled that streak of success well. I think I expected it to come easy at that point, and I stopped working hard. But I wasn’t putting in the work to be at the top of the tour. I needed to mature, and for a brief time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. But I kept at it and starting practicing harder and expanding my game. It was slow coming back. I got frustrated a lot. I was pressing a lot at times. I was trying too hard to win, playing for the result. Finally, I said, “I’m going to stop complaining and enjoy playing the game.” The result is that I am a better golfer today for having gone through it.
Your coach keeps practice light and fun.
Mike Wright is the director of golf at Shady Oaks where I play in Fort Worth. We call them “goofy” drills. We will lay a towel down as a target 150 yards out on the range and I have to hit the target. Or we’ll move some boundary stakes and create narrow, 20-yard fairways. He finds ways to make working on my game interesting. He knows I am competitive, so any kind of contest or game within the game makes it a little challenge.
We know you love TCU. You have a TCU sticker on your bag. But why did you pass on sponsorship money to keep TCU head covers on your clubs?
I am under contract with Ping but the head covers are optional. I just like to have them there to remind me of TCU and Fort Worth. And the sticker is a state of Texas with the horned frog on it. It’s on the bottom of my bag, so it’s not something seen a lot. But I have always liked the idea of team. As a professional, you’re out there by yourself. I grew up playing team sports and it’s nice to feel a part of something. It’s also great to get people talking about TCU. I’ll have people see it and we start talking about the TCU football team or the golf team.
With popular golfer Annika Sörenstam leaving the game and Asian players seeming to dominate, what do you see for the near future for the LPGA?
I think it goes in cycles. Lots of people are caught up in the stories of an Asian influx, but if you look at the history of the tour, you see that with other groups. You've seen a five-year run of American players. Then a stretch where the Europeans are hot. As for the tour in general, I think it is dealing with the economy as best it can, same as everyone else. The tour has a good product. We're going to be fine and get through these tough times. I don't know that these ladies can do much more. They're working really hard right now, and the LPGA is doing a good job of promoting the players.
You play in regular competitive rounds against guys at your home course Shady Oaks Country Club. How does that help you?
It works out perfectly for my normal weekly routine. I don't always like to practice. I'd rather play. And they challenge me. I have to play hard to win. I play the back tees and a three or four handicap. It is close to simulating tournament conditions. It gets my competitive juices flowing and helps me see where my game needs to go.
What's something people don't really know about you?
I really like to wash my car and don't really don't like anybody else to do it. I'm kind of particular about it. It's also something I like to do every week. I find it relaxing in a way.
So you're a neat freak is what you're saying?
Yes, I am. Even on the road, I'm cleaning my hotel room, even when there is housekeeping service. I like to be organized and keeping things clean is a part of that. I'm regimented and plan out everything I do. I hate a messy bathroom.
Favorite golf movie?