January Featured Player: Ana Belac
Born in Kranj, Slovenia, 20-year-old Ana Belac is a senior at Duke University. In her 2018-2019 season, Belac had four top-10 finishes including a solo fourth place at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M. Last summer, she helped lead the International Team to a victory at the Arnold Palmer Cup. Currently ranked No. 65 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Belac competed in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last year. We chatted with Ana during her winter break before the New Year, during which she shared her golf journey as well as how she spends her time off the course.
What is your favorite food?
What is the best concert you have ever been to?
I’ve only been to one concert in my entire life: Imagine Dragons and I loved it.
What is your favorite T.V. show right now?
I’ve just recently started watching The Office and I can’t stop.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring and why?
Food, water and a plane or a boat to go home when I run out of food.
Who is your favorite golfer and why?
Rory McIlroy: I remember watching the first tournament he won on tour on television when I was little and fell in love with his swing. He’s been my favorite golfer since.
How do you spend your free time outside of golf?
During the year, I love to hit the gym or play tennis. During the winter break, I try to spend as much time as I can on the ski slopes, as I was an Alpine Ski racer until I started to take golf more seriously and it’s still a huge part of my life. If I’m not playing sports, I like to relax at home and bake or cook.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
Lindsey Vonn. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to become a professional athlete when I grow up and back then I thought I’d become a skier. I always followed Alpine Skiing on TV, and she was the person that inspired me the most. In recent years, my respect and admiration towards her grew even more, especially with her battling with injuries and never giving up on her career. I think that the role model for an athlete does not necessarily have to be from the same sport that you’re pursuing, and I’ve always felt more of an athlete that plays golf rather than a golfer, so I draw inspiration from several sports.
Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what are they?
I can speak several languages: my mother tongue is Slovenian, I’m completely fluent in English and Italian, and can effectively communicate in Spanish, Russian, Croatian/Serbian and French.
Fitness and nutrition are very important for both athletes and non-athletes. Why do you believe that working out and eating well is important for your game?
Growing up I played several sports that expanded my athletic horizons and became a part of my lifestyle. As I started taking golf more seriously, it was a natural choice to work out and eat well as well as still incorporate other sports in my training program. When I am able to feel my best physically, I know I can perform my best on the golf course. For me, feeling my best physically means feeling strong in the weight room where I like to do Olympic lifts. Besides this, I like to keep mental freshness in my golf game by sometimes taking an active break and play other sports instead.
How/Why did you choose to play golf at Duke? Can you briefly explain what went into the process of deciding what to school play for and go to?
Growing up in Slovenia where golf is not a popular sport and not knowing much about possible opportunities abroad, I did not have an elaborate process on figuring out my life after high school. My then national team teammate Tim Gornik played on Duke Men’s Golf team and because I was a curious teenager I wanted to know more about his experience at Duke. At the time, two of my older teammates on the national team also decided to come to the U.S. and so I gathered more information from Tim and decided to contact Coach Brooks. He came to watch me play at the ANNIKA Invitational Europe in Sweden in the summer of 2015. The first shot he ever saw me hit was a hole in one on a par 3 (my only hole in one ever), and I like to joke about it and say that my shot sealed the deal. After the round, we had a pleasant conversation. I visited Duke a couple months later for my official visit and loved it there, signed the NLI and started my freshman year in the August of 2016 a year after I first met coach Brooks.
Many people have said that golf and life are very similar. What has golf taught you about life?
Golf has definitely taught me a lot, but probably the most important lesson is to depend on yourself.
What is your favorite memory you have from playing golf?
Winning the NCAA Championship earlier this year.
Do you have any advice to share with aspiring female golfers who are just starting to play the game? Golf is not an easy sport and takes a lot of effort and hard work, but eventually all the work you’ve put in rewards you with great experiences, whether that means meeting new friends, seeing new places, going to college or eventually golf becoming your profession.
What are some tips you can share with junior golfers who are getting ready to play college golf next year?
College golf is quite a transition: all of a sudden, you’re the youngest on the team, your parents aren’t there with you all the time and all of a sudden you have to balance a schedule that is more demanding than what you’ve experienced before. The most important lesson I learned is that you need to learn how to ask for help, it is okay to miss home but that shouldn’t stop you from making new friends and enjoying the college experience. But even more importantly, keeping your priorities straight, whether it’s academics, golf or both.
This spring will be your final season at Duke and you already have one National Championship under your belt. Do you have any goals you hope to accomplish before graduation both individual/or and team?
Now that most of my hardest classes for my Statistics major are behind me, I’m trying to put more focus on my golf game and I am hoping that it will reflect on the course. Besides this, I am trying to be the best leader that I can be for my team and be there for them when they need me. Hopefully our continued work will give us as a team another shot at winning the national title.
Ana will graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in Statistical Science and begin her journey as a professional golfer playing on the Symetra Tour after getting her card in the fall. When asked about her time spent at Duke, she said “The opportunity to play on a team where it’s easy to form friendships that can last a lifetime and having the support of my amazing coaches is my favorite part.”