When Laura Hoskin transferred to Ole Miss from Oregon State in 2015, she was one of New Zealand’s best junior golfers. She represented her country and finished ninth at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and qualified for the 2013 USGA Junior Girls Championship with a second place finish at the San Diego Junior Masters.
While in Oxford, the Arrowtown native recorded the team’s second lowest scoring average in the fall of her junior year and culminated her career with a strong finish in the Magnolia Invitational as a senior. Since her graduation in 2018, Hoskins has been pursuing a professional career on the China LPGA and Australian LPGA.
We checked in with the Kiwi about her time on the tour, what it’s like playing in a place where she doesn’t speak the language and New Zealand’s impressive job eliminating COVID-19. My questions are in bold:
When did golf become your sport?
It was my dad who got me into golf around 10 years old. I played competitions as a junior and was practicing more competitively every day at boarding school. In New Zealand there isn’t really a large amount top-level competition, so I went to the United States and played in junior tournaments. I knew an opportunity could really come with golf when I started winning some of those events.
You decided to play collegiately and went to Oregon State for your freshman season. How did you end up in Corvallis?
I went to Oregon State because there was another Kiwi on the golf team and she helped me get in with the coaches. I had performed well as a junior and I took an official visit, so when they offered me a full ride, I said yes on the spot because it was a great fit at the time. Oregon was comfortable because it was a lot like New Zealand, clean and green.
You left Ole Miss women’s golf even better than it was. When you got to campus it wasn’t like the Rebels were a national powerhouse, and now they’re competing at the top. You were a part of that rise and upswing to get the program where it is today. Why did you transfer down south to Ole Miss?
The coach that recruited me at Oregon State ended up leaving, and the new coach allowed us all the opportunity to transfer. I took her up on the offer and Ole Miss came to me with a full ride after I had visited a few schools. I fell in love with Ole Miss right away, how could you not?
The team atmosphere throughout the time that I was there made the group into what they are today. Seeing the freshman go out there and give it their all was pretty amazing to see. How close we all were is the standout for me and why the program is how it is now, it’s something to be able to share with incoming recruits!
Why did you end up going to America and playing for the NCAA as opposed to going straight to the amateur tour or ‘Q school’? Are international players a big part of collegiate golf? What is the traditional path for a women’s golfer?
It depends how good you are as a junior. For me, being in America and playing the golf courses against the girls that you’re going to compete against in Q School and on tour before making the transition to professional golf is a major step.
It’s important to get the experience on the top level, like learning how to compete in different climates for example. In New Zealand it’s cold in winter and warm in summer, but in America you play in extreme heat or even different conditions like thunderstorms.
And then obviously, getting an education is part of it. I think more girls in golf and other small sports should take up that opportunity, because it made me grow as a person outside of golf which translates to how I play golf. If you’re a good person outside of your sport, you have a higher chance of being good within your sport and being content as who you are.
You graduated in 2018 and then what happens? Did you go straight to the amateur tour? Walk me through those first few months out of college.
My dad had to convince me to come back to New Zealand and remember my dream. I loved America and I didn’t even really want to pursue professional golf, but I couldn’t give it up, so I came home and practiced to make it on tour.
I stayed an amateur about six months when I got back and I won what would be considered something like a state match play in America. I was in a bunker on the 18th hole and put it to a foot in front of everyone watching, which was a cool way to win. I was doing that and trained to head to China to qualify for the China LPGA.
There were about 130 girls in the field in the Hainan Islands and I finished 14th to earn my tour card for China, where I played professionally for 2019.
Do you move to China full-time? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you speak fluent Chinese. How does that work?
Oh man, I don’t! I know a couple of phrases like “xie xie” and “ni hao” but that’s it. It was a 180 compared to what we’re used to.
Tournaments over there are in stints, so it’s about four events and then a break before the last four events. I would go for a month, head home for the break and then go back.
The Asian tours approach the game very differently from America or New Zealand. What’s the ratio of native golfers vs. outsiders like yourself that qualify?
To give you perspective, there are about 160 girls on tour and I’m the only blonde. There are five other Europeans, so six total including me.
What’s it like transitioning from golf in America or New Zealand to China? Do you go play your game and hope it brings success or do you have to change your style?
The girls there are very technical. I’m probably a little bit more of a freestyle golfer and I learned quickly that my game needed to step up to compete. I actually got a new coach who has helped up my game, my technique and how I practice to where hopefully I can compete with those girls next year.
Was there a “wow” moment from your first year?
It’s the whole atmosphere. You arrive to an event on the tour bus with all of the girls and the caddies are waiting for you in their uniforms. The signage and the media are on the practice greens before you even approach the first tee.
It’s a bigger atmosphere even compared to the LPGA in America.
You mention the caddies... Do they all speak english? Do you choose who is on your bag?
At the start of my career, I had a team with me, but later in the year I did it myself. I’d walk up to an event, they’d assign a caddy for you and she was on the bag for the week.
I had one caddy who didn’t speak any english, but she was so sweet and meant business. I’d be talking to the other girls as we were playing and I hit a shot into the water. My caddy pulled out her iPhone and typed into google translate something like “come on, pull your head in. Get it together!” I stopped talking and focused.
Was she helping you map the course with club selection, or is on you to play and she helps with carrying the bag?
Numbers are fairly universal, so I’d tell her which club and she’d grab it for me. With putting, she would point to a spot and tell me where she thought it would break. It was definitely interesting to communicate without language and through movements.
Before COVID-19 hit, you were playing on the Australian LPGA until March. How did you get on that tour, does the card transfer over?
I qualified through some co-sanctioned European events and I was playing pretty well, which was cool. I had some of my best finishes, and then Corona kicked in.
I was planning on going to Canada to see my coach before China, but then we got emails with events being cancelled and postponed. Up until recently, I was going to play in the American LPGA ‘Q School’, but COVID cancelled it as well. That was a big hit for me— the pinnacle moment that made me realize the year was over.
But New Zealand is great. We haven’t had a single Coronavirus case and it’s life as normal here. They just announced a mini New Zealand tour, and I will be the only women competing against the male professionals who are stuck here!
Without being able to compete on a professional tour, what does the next year look like?
I’ve looked outside the box. I’m here playing these incredible courses, so I came up the idea with starting a project of touring people around and playing these courses. I’ll be working with a videographer and we’re going to start a YouTube channel that shows what it’s like playing New Zealand golf courses like a professional!
What is your favorite course in New Zealand?
It’s Jack’s Point. If you play it just before they close in winter and we’ve had a dump of snow on the mountains, it’s so dramatic.
It’s like moving in an oil painting.
Who is your favorite golfer?
Seve Ballesteros. The way he can maneuver the ball and feels golf. He loved the game and he’s how I would like to keep playing— for pure enjoyment and the art of golf.
What are you watching in all of this downtime?
I have got myself addicted to Gossip Girl, I can’t believe I’m saying it out loud.
Who wins in a fight 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?
100 duck sized horses.
If you have the necessities, what three things would you bring on a deserted island?
Tequila, a floatie and something to play music.
Is a hot dog a sandwich?
It is not a sandwich. It’s a hot dog.
What would Laura Hoskin’s slogan be?
Short but sweet.