Tina Miller may be the best-kept secret at the University of Miami. In fact, she may be the best athlete at UM, period.
Miller, now a senior, captains the women’s golf team. She’s tall, blonde and attractive. At a school often characterized by the football team, she breathes life into a sport that does not get nearly as much attention.
Miller knew her calling was golf at an early age. While most 9-year-olds were still playing freeze tag and blowing up ant piles, the precocious Miller was picked to play in National Golf Day with PGA tour star Fred Couples.
“He saw that I had something special in me and he told me that,” Miller said. “‘You are a girl and you’re 9 years old and the way you’re playing at this age is really good. I hope that you stick with it.’ When he said all that to me, it kind of made me think ‘I wouldn’t mind being a professional golfer; that’d be pretty cool.'”
Miller’s quest for a LPGA tour card begins early everyday. On days where there is no morning practice, Miller is at the gym working on her strength and flexibility. On days of morning practice, she’s up at 5 a.m.
“We drive out to Don Shula’s in Miami Lakes and we practice there from about 7 to 11 a.m.,” she said.
Fridays are Miller’s lone off day. So what does she do? Play golf.
“There have been times when I’ve dreaded going to golf practice, but last year and this year I’ve been excited about practicing and working on my game cause I hope to take it to the next level.”
This summer, Miller did take it to the next level as she got to participate as an amateur in the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I was always thinking if I practice hard and go to the gym and work extra hard maybe I’ll have that extra chance to qualify for the U.S. Open. And sure enough I did,” she said.
Miller had to pass through a series of qualifying rounds to compete in the Open. At one point, she was on the brink of elimination, as one of four golfers competing for the final two spots.
“We’re on this one hole, a par five, and it’s over the water,” she said. “I hit my third shot and there are rocks in front of the green. My ball hits the rocks, bounces on the green and I end up making par. If my ball doesn’t hit the rocks, I wouldn’t have made it to the next level and probably never would have qualified.”
For Miller, it seems everyday is National Golf Day.
Miami’s best-kept secret is getting out. Miller has already set unprecedented marks in woman’s golf and her career is just getting underway. The experience she gained while playing in the Open hopes to fuel her for years to come.
“You can’t put that much pressure on yourself,” she said. “You have to enjoy the whole experience and realize it’s just another day on the golf course.”
Chris Hamilton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.