A LeMaster at the game

Victor Nieto

BJ LeMaster, the mother of Sacramento State Hornet golfer Heather LeMaster, knew her daughter was destined to play golf and can still vividly recall her daughter’s initial years of perfecting her swing.

“Her grandmother gave her a junior set at age 2 and she naturally had a beautiful swing. I think we still have the pictures of them back at our ranch,” BJ said.

Having been practically born with a golf set in her hands, there was little doubt in the LeMaster family that their genial country-girl from the rural Sacramento area of Arden Oaks would end up pursuing golf at the collegiate level.

As a junior, LeMaster and the women Hornets team had a very successful season, which was highlighted by the Big Sky Championship, where four Hornet golfers finished in the top-five individually with LeMaster finishing second.

The now college senior is nearing her halfway mark to her final year as a student-athlete and is currently planning to graduate with a communications degree in May. However, as much as she is looking forward to graduating, she still has golf on her mind.

“As a team, we really need to work on being more focused and putting aside all those other distractions before we go out there (on the golf course),” LeMaster said about the team’s play. “Granted we have played in horrible conditions this year, dealing with cold, rain, sleet and up to 45 mph winds, but my play has been pretty weak.”

Although LeMaster may be her own worst critic, her play thus far has been more than adequate, having earned a qualifying score for all of her fall tournaments, including a second place showing on the team and 14th overall finish at the La Quinta Mountain Shootout in Flagstaff, Ariz.

“She’s very competitive and has a great deal of power. She’s definitely not afraid of a little competition,” BJ said, attributing her daughter’s early competitiveness to her grandmother and father.

“My grandmother used to be really good and aspired to play professionally. She’s the one that gave me my first lesson, and in fact, I played with her last weekend,” LeMaster said, whose grandmother is 88-years-old.

The lessons appeared to work as she ended up playing for her high school team of Sacramento Country Day, becoming the No. 1 golfer by her senior year in a school on the men’s team, since the school only had a men’s program.

“It was fun. Some of the guys gave me a hard time, but it was all in good fun,” LeMaster said.

LeMaster later that year went on to prove her No. 1 status on the team by earning her way to the Division V Sac-San Joaquin sections, placing second in her division.

Her high school success opened the door to numerous scholarship offers, but in the end, LeMaster decided to stay close to home and attend Sac State.

“I received some interesting scholarship offers, but they were all too far away. I was only 17 when I graduated high school and didn’t want to leave my horses or my mom,” she said.

As a youth, it took her a while to embrace the role of just concentrating on golf because her true passion, as both she and her mother will acknowledge, is her love for her horses.

Growing up on a ranch, LeMaster has always been around horses and continues to canter around on her horse Walter and if possible, compete in horse competitions if they work around her golf schedule.

LeMaster likes to hang out with her friends, but golf remains on her mind.

“I’m looking forward to graduating so I can just concentrate on golf and work my way up the ranks through Q-school,” she said. LeMaster explained that Q-school is a qualifying tournament held in California and Florida.

If LeMaster is able to finish in the top 100 in one of those two tournaments, she would go on to another tournament and would also have to finish in the top 100 in that event. If she gets past the two tournaments, then she would qualify for an opportunity to participate in a LPGA event.

“It’s a matter of getting your name out there and to get people interested in you,” she said.

As for the current season, LeMaster said she would like for the team to win a couple of tournaments on route to winning the Big Sky, and for her to win a few individual tournaments and hopefully earn some national recognition and ranking.

“I like to think that I could be part of the next generations of golfers to come out of Sacramento,” LeMaster said. “You know you have David Sutherland and his brother (Kevin), and then Natalie (Gulbis) and hopefully I can be in that next generation.”

LeMaster and the women’s golf team play next on Monday and Tueday in Arroyo Grande for the Cal Poly Women’s Invitational. It will be the team’s last event this fall with play to resume in February 2008.

Contact Victor Nieto at [email protected]