Daniela Darquea’s home in Ecuador is right between the capital city Quito and the club her family belongs to, where she first learned golf at the age of five. But after spending some time with her, it’s clear that her sights are set on the golf course, not the bright lights of the city.
Ranked as the 13th best amateur women’s golfer, according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking, sophomore Darquea is already one of the University of Miami’s most decorated golfers. As a freshman last season, Darquea became the Hurricane’s first Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Honorable Mention All-American since 1994, with her 73-shot scoring average and five top-10 individual finishes in competitions.
Both Darquea and her coaches say she’s very laid back and calm, but it’s clear her focus doesn’t stray far from the course.
“I try to follow my routine all the time. I try to do my best all the time, not just in tournaments; so I try to go to bed early, eat properly, I try to work out regularly and try to do my homework on time so I don’t have to stress,” Darquea said. Before going back to her laid back demeanor, she added, “I’m not super focused, I like to have fun when I’m playing tournaments.”
Darquea is able to do what many athletes struggle with: focus on the game without letting it overwhelm her.
“She has a strong competitive side in tournaments, where she sets really high standards for herself, but if she does mess up, she doesn’t beat herself up about it for the rest of the day,” assistant coach John Koskinen explained. “She’s super efficient at letting something go and moving on to the next shot, and that’s one of the reasons she’s so good.”
Before she left Ecuador for UM, Darquea first learned the game at a club near the house she grew up in. She said her parents joined the club for the leisure that comes with a pool and tennis court. But around the age of five, she asked her mom to let her try golf lessons at the club. By seven, she was playing in national tournaments and around the age of 10, she was playing in competitions around South America.
Her talent was evident as she played in U.S. tournaments by the age of 14. Soon after, UM women’s golf head coach Patti Rizzo, a 20-year veteran of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour, was tracking her progress in tournaments. Growing up, Darquea’s favorite golfers were Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa, who were unanimously known as the best golfers on the men and women sides during their respective peaks. Rizzo, a 1982 LPGA Rookie of the Year, says that the best players, like Ochoa and Woods, are the ones who are strong in all areas of the game. Darquea fits that profile.
“Daniela doesn’t have a weakness in her game, and she’s going to make it big, not doubt,” Rizzo said.
Darquea, an All-ACC Academic selection last year, said she wasn’t ever thinking of going pro when she first came to Miami. But her commitment to being the best is clear. In her free time, she enjoys having dinner with her teammates and watching movies with them. “Happy Gilmore,” the golf comedy with Adam Sandler, is her favorite. Even the city of Miami, where so many people come to escape their work, can’t take her away from the course.
“I feel like when I’m here in Miami, since I’m not from here, I like to focus on golf. I practice a lot in my off time. I’d rather go out and putt for a while and then maybe watch a movie with a teammate,” Darquea said.
At home in Ecuador this past summer, after her first year away from home, Darquea and her parents went on a road trip to see the mountains, forests and beaches of Ecuador. This must have been the farthest she’s been from the game she loves.
With all the accolades and promise of professional success after school, Darquea still holds a measured view of herself, and that calm approach may be her best asset.
“The thing that me and Coach Rizzo talk about with her sometimes is, she’ll see another player and go, ‘Oh my god, she’s so good,’” Koskinen said. “And we’ll say, ‘Hey, why don’t you look in the mirror,’ because she’s a pretty good player herself.”