Elena “Lani” Robles has been a contestant on the Golf Channel’s Big Break series twice, with her first appearance being earlier this year on Big Break Sandals Resorts with fellow contestants Carling Coffing and Seema Sadekar. Elena was the first golfer eliminated, but this is no way indicative of her skill as a golfer. Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way, especially on a show like the Big Break where your survival may depend on a single swing. She handled the defeat with grace and a positive outlook and the producers of the next Big Break in the Dominican Republic must have taken notice, because she was selected to be a part of the show again, who’s final episode aired tonight (11/30/2010) on the Golf Channel at 9 pm.
Elena was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with me to answer some questions about life as a professional golfer and keep us all up to date on her off course ventures. Enjoy!
ITG: Did your week at LPGA Q-School differ from your expectations of the event?
Elena: Well, this was my first try at LPGA q school and it was a very good learning experience. I knew I wasn’t quite ready for the LPGA yet, but I discussed it with my coaches and family and we thought that it would be a good experience for me to go out and play to get a good feel of what I need to do for next year. I learned so much about myself and what I do under the gun. This is thus far my biggest event and I am very excited to play in future events and work on what I learned at q school.
ITG: How long have you been playing golf, and how did you get your start?
Elena: I have been playing golf since I was a freshman in high school. I started kind of late, I just went to a driving range with my dad and a local pro came up to my dad and told him he should get me some lessons and that I had a natural talent. Its been history since. I was a competitive figure skater before I started to golf.
ITG: When did you know you wanted to be a professional golfer?
Elena: I have always thought about it since I started playing but it wasn’t until I took a year off from the sport after graduating college that I realized my dream of playing on the LPGA tour.
Elena: All I can say is whoa pressure. I have NEVER experienced anything like BB pressure, ever. I used to watch the show and make fun of the people that couldn’t get a short chip shot in the circle but then when I played in my first challenge on BBS I realized how dumb I was for thinking like that. It was the craziest nerves I have ever felt, but good nerves and I loved every second.
ITG: Has being on the Big Break (Twice!) changed your career? If so, in what way?
Elena: Being in Big Break Sandals was awesome but being gone on the first show, I didn’t get to experience the whole thing like the other girls. Now that I have been blessed with this second opportunity on BBDR, I am very excited to have a new and unknown journey ahead of me filled with new and amazing opportunities. I am very grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I have been given to me thus far, and I wouldn’t have gotten them without being on the shows. I am so thankful for the golf channel and the fact that they choose me to come back and I am very excited for what the future holds.
ITG: Are you involved in any charities or business ventures off the course?
Elena: Right now I am in the process of starting my own foundation that will link to my website and allow my fans to match or beat my donation for every birdie I make in 2011 to an organization of my choosing(I will announce later ). I am looking for some financial sponsors to make this dream of mine come true so please contact me thru my website with any inquires (www.elenarobles.com).
I recently became part of an amazing company called Play Golf Designs run by two of my friends and fellow professional golfers Nisha and Seema Sedakar (Big Break Sandals). This company aims at improving women’s golf positively and represents the game of golf with poise, style and personality. Play Golf Designs is comprised of a player organization with the most beautiful and talented female professionals in the world, we do events across the country, growing the notoriety of women’s golf and I am so excited and honored to work with them and be a part of their company!
ITG: How difficult is it financially, physically and mentally to play professional golf?
Elena: I think the only thing holding me back right now is the financial aspect of the game. I work 3 jobs on top of working out and maintaining my game in order to pay for my own events. I am only able to play like 5-8 events a year because I pay for everything on my own, so it makes it extremely tough to be successful. I am determined to make my dreams come true and I will do anything I have to, to play golf. I am looking for financial sponsors to help me gain the luxury of competing on a weekly basis. I have done a great job of competing against girls that play full time but I feel the only thing lacking in my successes is the fact that I don’t get the competitive experience and rhythm by being able to play every week and travel to play on the different mini tours. As far as the mental aspect the situation I just mention leads to issues sometimes. I deal with not thinking about if this event is going to be my last event because the money isn’t there. I am working very hard on my mental game and I am confident that things will all fall into place.
I would like to add that I am working on this with my good friend and sports psychologist James Boykin, the owner and founder of Mental Apex (www.mentalapex.com). I have transformed my mental game thru the power of staying in the process and moment.
Elena: I work out almost everyday, taking days off if I am sore and or playing in an event then I just doing strength conditioning. I practice 5-6 days a week. I think that it is very important to take days off and enjoy life. I usually take Sundays off and go to church and the Farmers Market. I also try to play 2-3 times a week depending on what the week looks like.
ITG: What do you like to do when you aren’t playing golf?
Elena: I love working out and YOGA. I also, love spending time with my puppy Bella and my friends and family. I love music so concerts are one of my favorite things to do, especially if it is an incubus concert, my favorite band!! I also love baseball games and the beach.
ITG: Can you tell us something funny and/or interesting about you that most people don’t know?
Elena: My nickname is Lani, my dad has called me that since I was a baby. Also, I had braces and the headgear the wrapped around my neck and was all metal, haha!!!
ITG: Do you have a website or fan page people can go to follow you?
ITG: What advice can you give to young people who want to follow in your footsteps and become a professional golfer?
Elena: MY biggest advice to young golfers is to follow your dreams and never let anyone tell you; you can’t do it. You can do anything you set your mind to, if you work hard and BELIEVE in yourself. Self belief and confidence is the key to success. I am a great example of overcoming obstacles and coming out on top.
ITG: Who or what has been the biggest influence in your golf career?
Elena: I have a mentor that I owe most of my golfing success too. This person has helped me when I dint know if I was even going to play golf again. Through their inspiration and words of encouragement I have gotten to where I am today. I also grew up watching Annika Sorenstam play golf and she is my idol without a doubt.
Elena: My foursome would include: Annika, Fred Couples, Justin Timberlake and myself and we would be playing at Agusta National.
ITG: If you could change any rule in golf, what rule would you change and why?
Elena: I would change the rangefinder rule, I think that it speeds up play and would help tournament speed of play.
ITG: What’s the toughest part about life on tour?
Elena: I think the toughest part about playing golf on the road is living out of your suitcase all the time and being away from home so much. I miss my puppy and my bed.
ITG: What’s the strength of your game? And where do you feel you need to improve?
Elena: I am happy with my game as a whole right now, but If I had to choose one strength it would be my consistency off the tee. I rarely miss a fairway I don’t hit it super far but I am consistent. I think that I need to improve on my completive rhythm and I can only do that by playing in more events. I am an all around solid player just need the opportunity to play full time on the mini tours and to go out and play without any financial weight on my shoulders and dominate.
ITG: LPGA Tour players earn far less than PGA Tour players, do you think there should be more equality in prize money between men and women?
Elena: I do, but we as female golfers have to bring it. Women’s golf needs to be rebranded and marketed. We need to boost up the femininity and sex appeal of the LPGA and with that we will gain more sponsors which will in turn create bigger purses and more money up for grabs. People watch the PGA tour and they have more money and sponsors because they market the PGA tour correctly focusing on all the young up and coming golfers like Rory McElroy, Ricki Fowler and Jamie Lovemark. The youthfulness and stellar play are bringing in the money on the PGA tour and the LPGA has the stellar play now we just need to change our overall appearance and branding and turn it into something eye catching and representing of who we are as young, talent professional women golfers.
ITG: What’s on your iPod right now?
Elena: INCUBUS is ALWAYS playing but also Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, Lady A, and some Ferry Corsten.
ITG: When I become a star on the LPGA Tour, I’m going to….
Elena: Win majors, donate to my favorite charities and help rebrand the LPGA.
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