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First Russian Participant at U.S Women's Open

Armen Hareyan's picture

By Laura Erdman, USGA

Kostina Relishes Opportunity To Be First Russian U.S. Women's Open Golf Championship Participant

Maria Kostina’s life has been all about firsts.

At age 11, she learned about golf at Moscow Country Club, the first 18-hole golf course in Russia. At 14, she won the first of her two Russian Amateur Championships. At 19, she helped Washington State women’s golf team make its first NCAA Division I Championship appearance. At 22, she played in her first professional event – the Thriftway Washington State Women’s Open. At 23, she began her first season on the Duramed FUTURES tour.

This week, the 24-year-old Kostina makes history with another first. When she teed of Thursday morning at 9:01, she became the first Russian golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Women's Open.

"I am very proud to represent my country here, " the Nakhabino, Russia native said. "As a kid, I would watch the Olympics and I always wanted to represent my country in that way."

Kostina’s younger sister, Anastasia, will be carrying the bag for her this week. "I love it when she caddies for me. She is a great player and helps me a lot."

Anastasia, 22, who learned the game in the same junior program as Maria, followed her sister to WSU and now the Duramed Futures Tour. In 2005, Anastasia became the first Russian to compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Unfortunately, this first may also be a last for the sisters. "This is probably the last time it will be possible because next year we’ll probably be competing against each other," said Maria. Anastasia barely missed qualifying this year’s Open.

Maria said she is trying to enjoy her first Women’s Open.

"The atmosphere here is awesome with all these people here to watch," said Maria.

She says the event gives young players "a great opportunity to learn about all aspects of the [LPGA] Tour – how to be with the media, how to interact with fans, how to play in front of a crowd."

Still the locals are not letting the older Kostina forget what she is playing for this week. "This town is so into golf," said Maria. People know what is going on. Everyone is always trying to give you advice about how to play this course. In my country, not many people know about golf."

Their advice: keep it on the fairways and turtle-back Donald Ross greens.

While Maria states that she is "just trying to learn as much as I can," she is not shy to admit that she’s thrilled to be here. "I love it … I am going to play my heart out and enjoy the experience."

It certainly won’t be the first time she’s done that.

Laura Erdman is the USGA's Grants Coordinator. E-mail her with questions or comments at lerdman@usga.org. Copyright 2007 United States Golf Association. All Rights Reserved.

Comments

Submitted by erku on
This is a major development for Golf in terms of gaining more popularity internationally. In Russia people don't play golf and the game is not popular at all. However, seeing someone like Maria Kostina participating in U.S. Women's Open Golf Championship 2007 is already something very interesting. In case she wins, it will be a milstone in making golf more popular in Eastern Europe.

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