GETTING TO KNOW… PIA BABNIK

After playing her first professional tournament on the LET Access Series at the age of 12, Pia Babnik has had a stunning rise onto the Ladies European Tour.

Despite her young age, the Slovenian star finished 17th on her professional debut at the Geoff King Motors Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville and recorded three top-10 finishes from a further seven starts.

We caught up with Pia before the start of the 2021 season to reflect on turning professional, the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup, and much more.

Hometown: Ljubljana

Home Course: Trnovo Ljubljana

Age: 17

Started Golf: 3-Years-Old

School: High School

Turned pro: 2020

Handicap: +7

I loved everything about golf. My dad was playing, he showed me how to and then I started playing when I was three years old. The first tournament I played in I was four and a half, it was a national championship for the under-8s and I came third – it was where I made my first birdie! I loved golf because I was outside, and I loved playing and being in tournaments.

I love sport. If I don’t do anything, I feel worse than if I’ve done a ton of different things and I do enjoy playing other sports because they are fun. Our parents also played badminton before golf so we used to play badminton and we competed in some tournaments when we were younger for school. We play badminton against our family every year – except for last year because the centre was closed due to coronavirus. We also play tennis sometimes – just being active feels great!

School is still very important. I enjoy going to school especially because of my schoolfriends. My school are really good with flexibility where they let me do one exam for the whole year for one subject. It’s not that stressful and it goes quicker so I can finish earlier than I would. I do most of the school in December when there are not tournaments and I will do some more in April this year.

I didn’t want to be second anymore. I played the European US Kids Championships eight times. The first two times I played, I came second and then I decided I wanted to win, so I won six times in a row. It was amazing to get the first win. I like winning so every win I enjoy and I’m a competitive person, but as long as I play my best then I can’t do anything about anyone else.

The LET Access Series was really nice. The first one I played when I was 12, I had played on the same course the week before in an under-14 tournament. It was really nice to play with the girls and I tried to play like I usually did and not think about the actual tournament too much. Playing on the Series, it showed me that everyone was really nice and that it’s not anything different than I used to play. It’s still just a tournament! I’m really thankful that they got me prepared when I was an amateur so that I could see what the Tour is like.

Q School was really tough. It was five days in a row of playing and before that I had had some problems with my back. Thankfully there was someone there from the LET who was able to help me walk, because I couldn’t even do that before the tournament. But once it started I just played my game.

I always knew I wanted to be professional. It came a little sooner than I expected because LET moved the qualifiers from December to January. If it was in December, I wouldn’t have been able to play because I was too young, but then in January I was 16 so we decided to give it a try. Once I finished 11th in the Final Stage, I knew I wanted to turn professional so there was never a question, I was always going to do it.

My first year was great. I really enjoyed it even though we played less tournaments, but I gained a lot of experience and I’ve learnt a lot, which is the most important thing. Overall, I was really happy with everything. I’m really looking forward to playing on Tour again this year and getting back to it.

I knew I wanted to get to the PING Junior Solheim Cup. It was the plan to play in that tournament at the beginning of the year, but I knew I had to qualify because I’m from a small country. I really tried to play my game and I won three tournaments and that was enough to win the qualifying which I was really happy about. The girls I played with, I played with them the whole year, so we knew each other. I think we made a good team, but in match play you also need luck and I think the USA just had more luck than we did. Otherwise, it was a great experience and I’m really happy that I played there.

Match play is a totally different game. At the British Girls’ Amateur Championship in 2019, I was just focusing on each game at a time. I was lucky enough that time to win and I was really happy about it. I think I’m good at match play because I play it a lot and sometimes with my brothers – I really enjoy it! In some way it’s easier because you are only competing against one person and not 150 people. It’s nice for a change.

I really enjoyed playing with the guys. We were trying to find tournaments last year when the LET had its break and the first few were in Slovenia on courses that I knew. We were searching for tournaments where I and my brothers could all play. We then found them in Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. They were nice tournaments and I happened to play well and it was just enough to beat them to record seven consecutive victories.

Tiger Woods is my role model in golf. I think it was because he was the best in what he did, and he won a lot of tournaments and people love him – they still do! He’s enjoyable to watch. I really like watching those at the top of their game because you can learn a lot from them.

I want to represent Team Europe in the future. I have a few ambitions that I’d like to achieve. Playing golf at the Olympics would be something I want to do, maybe not in Tokyo but the next one in Paris is so close. I really want to win some tournaments and I want to play at The Solheim Cup in the future too.

Quickfire Q&A

  1. Who is your hero? My parents.
  2. What makes you happiest? Winning a tournament.
  3. Best travel buddy? My dad.
  4. Desert island dish? Fruit. I love all fruit.
  5. Golfing superstitions? None.
  6. What is your most treasured possession? My golf clubs.
  7. What would you sing at karaoke? I wouldn’t sing.
  8. Favourite Course? Trnovo Ljubljana.
  9. Dream fourball? Tiger Woods and my family.

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