Photo: Duke Women's Golf/Twitter
Recent Duke graduate, Virginia Elena Carta, is our June Featured Player. The Italian not only has an NCAA individual title on her resume, which she claimed her Freshman year at Duke, but she also helped lead the Blue Devils to a team NCAA Championship last month at Blessings Golf Club in Arkansas. She also recently competed in the Shoprite LPGA Classic. We caught up with Virginia shortly after the tournament where she shared her experience growing up playing golf in Italy, the opportunities golf has provided her throughout her life and much more.
What is your favorite food?
Definitely some homemade pasta alla carbonara! Also, I love every type of fruit.
What is the best concert you have ever been to?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been to many concerts but my freshman year I went to a Sam Smith concert and it was amazing. After the concert, my friend and I also got the chance to meet Sam and he was really nice and spent time with all of us. That definitely made my experience even better!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring and why?
A pair of hiking boots to explore the island that I imagine being mountainous, a sand-wedge to practice bunker shots on the beach and a notebook with a pen to keep notes about the amazing journey.
Who is your favorite golfer and why?
Annika Sorenstam and Stefania Croce. Very different athletes and women that have marked my journey. Annika has achieved everything you can dream of as an athlete and also as a woman. Her initiatives are a strong boost for women’s golf. Without her, female golf would not be as developed as it is today. I cannot fail to mention Stefania Croce, who has always shared everything she learned and that when she can’t give you an answer straight away, she works to find it and then calls you back. Annika and Stefania are examples of great values such as fairness and loyalty, just to name two.
How do you spend your free time outside of golf?
I had very little free time in these four years at Duke. A lot of my time was dedicated to studies and doing research work. When I had time, I would hang out with friends.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
My grandfather Lorenzo. Through his guidance and leadership, he taught me to have respect for people and nature. His confidence and attention to details are values that I keep in my heart. He, who had lived through the hardships of the war, was thinking about what had to be done to ensure everyone had enough food. He worried that everyone had access to education to acquire the tools to make a difference in the world.
Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they?
I love hiking! I love walking for hours and seeing beautiful views and getting lost in nature’s silence. Unfortunately, I haven’t had many opportunities to do so lately!
What is your greatest memory from playing collegiate golf?
Winning Nationals as a freshman in 2016, posting various NCAA records, and closing my college career with a team National Championship in May 2019 were the highlights of my career and the best memories. Winning as a team this spring meant a lot to me and was fueled by incredible teamwork.
Many people have said that golf and life are very similar. What has golf taught you about life?
I think in life, and in golf, you have to work really hard and need to respect yourself and others. A lot of patience and humility. In both, we need to learn from successes and failures. And never cheat in either!
What is your favorite course you have played?
I played many beautiful courses in my career but definitely Eugene Country Club in Oregon was one of them. The layout in the trees and the perfect conditions of the course made it an amazing course to play.
Do you have any advice to share with aspiring female golfers who are just starting to play the game?
Have a lot of patience and as I have said many times in the past, use what is available to you even at home to get better. When I started playing golf, and in my first few years, I played with my mom’s old irons and I practiced for a long time in a field that was literally just a field. I hit balls and then went to pick them up to be able to hit them again. It is possible to even practice your putting in the house, for example, using plastic cups. On the course, we all need to forget about previous shots and think about the next one without thinking about the score. The less you worry, the more your game will improve, and the more fun you will have. Finally, you need to trust your chosen coach.
How do you balance the life of a student-athlete? What do you find the most difficult/the easiest?
It is definitely very hard to balance life as a student-athlete. My freshman year, especially the first semester, was challenging as I found myself with demanding classes, meetings, workouts and practice. The most difficult task was managing my schedule. My first semester I went to sleep very late every day (early mornings at 3,4,5…) and had a hard time finding enough time to practice and study, while giving myself enough time to rest. However, setting priorities and doing everything with a purpose helped me a lot. The easiest part of being a student-athlete is the great support that we receive, athletically and academically.
Congratulations on helping your team win the National Title this year. How was winning as a senior with your team this year different than claiming the individual title as a freshman?
Definitely a different feeling. I matured a lot through the years not only as a player but also as a person and winning nationals as a team had been a dream of mine since day one at Duke. In past years we have been close to winning. Being able to finally do it and close my college career with a team win is a memory and feeling that I will never forget. My individual win wasn’t really “individual” as there were many people that supported me all year long and through my life who helped me get there. However, knowing that the team could rely on all its players and that we all contributed to such a memorable win this spring is incredible!
Obviously winning both an individual title and a team title, you have played under a lot of pressure. What are some tips you can share with young girls who struggle with the mental side of the game?
One of the hardest things to do under pressure is being able to think about the present and not about the final result and the bigger picture (i.e. winning the tournament or making the cut or even winning a hole in match play). A tip to be able to think about the present is focusing on different tasks that I have to accomplish while at the same time enjoying my time between shots. During her clinic my freshman year at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M, Annika said that removing the glove after a shot and putting it back on when getting ready for the next shot worked for her as a switch that went off and on. I always use this tip on the course to help me with my mental game. I remove my glove as soon as I hit a shot and I allow myself to relax and think about something else other than the shot I just hit or the score and then as soon as I put it back on, I start thinking about the next shot and all that goes into it. It’s definitely an easy tip for any golfer and it is really useful.
Lastly, why do you think other girls should play golf?
Golf gave me many opportunities, including being able to study and play golf at Duke University. It is definitely a sport that opens many doors on and off the course and it is a sport that teaches many transferrable skills.
Virginia has shown an immense amount of heart and talent both on and off the course. For example, she became the 14th Blue Devil to earn four All-ACC accolades over her career, started Birdies for Babies, a fund-raising effort that would benefit Duke Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care units and was named the 2019 ACC Women’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She has a packed summer schedule ahead with her next event in July at the Marathon Classic, followed by the European Ladies Amateur Championship and then to Mississippi for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Carta will attend the University of Cambridge in the fall where she be will continue playing golf as well as getting an MPhil in Environmental Policy. “I am really excited about this opportunity and the opportunity to play for the team.” She will keep her amateur status until she finishes school next summer. We wish Virginia the best of luck with the rest of her summer season and her exciting year ahead!