Friday Feature: Kimberly Punyasavatsut

She’s a biology major with her sights set on becoming a dentist. Her last name, the longest single-word last name in the university’s student-athlete population at 13 letters, is a mouthful, but she may be one of the quietest, unassuming, yet determined competitors wearing the gold, white and blue.

Kimberly Punyasavatsut (POO-knee-ah-sah-VAHT-soot) is in her second season with the San Jose State women’s golf team and has a prominent role this season.

Golf is a college sport in which student-athletes participate individually and as part of a team. The sophomore from Anaheim is one of the five regular players. Team scoring counts the best four scores from each five-person team, so there is at least a 20 percent chance that her score each round will count.

As a freshman, she played in five of the team’s 10 tournaments and was named the Spartans’ Most Improved at the team’s annual post-season awards get-together. She made enough improvement in the spring of 2007 to be included in the lineup for the NCAA Regional Championship.

The upward flight of her improvement contrasts with the downward trajectory of her scoring average. Through the 2007 fall season, she lowered her stroke average to 78.17 that included a pair of final-round 74’s at the Stanford and Hawaii tournaments. Her percentage of countable rounds rose to 54 percent, a number she hopes increases this spring.

“I have improved a lot since my freshman year. I feel more comfortable playing college golf now. My swing has improved, but I still have to work on with my putting,” said Punyasavatsut, who played in her first tournament and won it, the Long Beach Junior Festival, when she was 10-years-old. “My short game it’s a lot better, too. If my short game wasn’t on, I’d be shooting high scores right now.”

Punyasavatsut learned the game watching her cousin, former Stanford star Jenny Tangtiphaiboontana, play in the Southern California area. Kimberly was a two-time league champion and the 2004 Long Beach Press Telegram Player of the Year playing for Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach. Though she has more junior golf and high school experiences, Punyasavatsut has adapted to the college golf environment.

“In a college tournament, you’re playing with your team. You’re always with your team; you’re scoring with your team. You never give up. You always keep going and try your hardest. You and your team are one,” said Punyasavatsut, who hopes to lower her stroke average to 75 by the end of the season and get the Spartans to the 2008 NCAA Championships.

“I actually like playing college golf more, because you have your teammates to support you. It’s more fun to play with your teammates. Unlike local tournaments when you have your parents there, it’s not the same as a college tournament. You have friends out there, but you’re competing against them.”

You have an excellent chance to see Kimberly and her teammates at the Spartan Invitational at the Almaden Country Club, March 3 & 4. San Jose State is the defending team champion and 14 teams will be looking to capture the crown. Play begins at 8:00 a.m. each day and there is no admission charge.

“If people come out to watch us play, they should see all of us, because it is our home tournament. We won last year and we want to win it again,” said the future dentist flashing a toothy smile.