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Katie Futcher, LPGA’s only Penn Stater, on missing Solheim Cup, 2012 LPGA schedule, and tears she cried for PSU

Photo: Crystal Chatham/Zuma Press

Katie Futcher's best finish in the majors in 2011 was a T3 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Katie Futcher has had a roller-coaster kind of year. She finished the season with a career-high $373,360 in earnings and notched three top 15s at the majors, including a T3 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The 29-year-old from Houston ended up 11th in the Solheim Cup standings -- the top 10 qualify for the team automatically -- and was considered a front-runner for one of Rosie Jones's captain’s picks, but was passed over. 

Futcher played her college golf at Penn State, and when news broke of the allegations and controversy surrounding the university and its football team, she was devastated and unable to focus while playing in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She remains a proud alumni, but admits the university might no longer represent what it once did to her. Walking off the Grand Cypress course in Orlando after last week's season-ending CME Group Titleholders, Futcher talked about the highs and lows of her year, the 2012 LPGA schedule, and Penn State and JoePa.

This summer you were considered a favorite for a captain's pick after a good showing at the majors (Kraft Nabisco T3, LPGA Championship T14, Women's British Open T14). How did you feel when you heard you didn’t make the team?
After I kind of got over the initial disappointment I tried to look at it like, “There are going to be other Solheim Cups in the future, and I'm going to work towards that position to never having to be a captain's pick.” So it really opened my eyes to the whole situation, and I appreciated the chance to possibly be a pick. It was disappointing, but you live and you move on.

What's been the high of your season?
One of them was definitely the Kraft, coming in playing well on Sunday and getting a top three finish there. Definitely another one of the highs of the season was shooting 64 at Carnoustie on Sunday, the final day. The British Open is my favorite tournament of the year, so I was really pleased to play well there. And actually the same day I shot 64, my sister got engaged in Scotland. Her fiancée flew over and surprised her and proposed. It was just a great tournament and a great day for her and me. 

Why is the British Open your favorite tournament? 
I love the creativity that you have to have at the British, whether it be with the wind, whether it be with the bounces. Playing way over here and the pin over here, just being way more creative. You have to keep the ball on the ground, it's not like you can throw it way up in the air. You have to be a shot-maker, so I just love everything about it. I love the mental side of it. I love the shot‑making side of it.

As an LPGA player-director, how do you feel about the schedule being split between North America and Asia?
I think that Mike [Whan], the commissioner, has done a good job in two years doing his best to better the schedule. He came in with a really tough job, to change our image, to get more tournaments, and I think he's done a great job. With that said, we would love to be playing 32 domestic full‑field events. Unfortunately, the sponsors and the money are coming from Asia, and we're trying our best to get as many players as we can in that field, but we have to be playing. We have to be visible, and if it's us playing in Asia or us playing in Australia, we've got to keep doing that to potentially get some American sponsors to come back and join us. But we've got to be playing, and that's the bottom line. The schedule is what it is, and it's getting better, but it takes time to repair some of the stuff that happened in the past.

Have you been given any indication of what the schedule will look like next year?
I don't believe I'm at liberty to say because Mike is going to release it to the media in January, so I have to just keep it at that.

Specifics aside, what are your general thoughts on the 2012 schedule?
Well, we've added at least two full‑field events and we've put on the schedule two more that potentially could have left. So I think all in all it's pretty good. 

What was your experience at Penn State like? 
Are you really going to ask me about this?

Yeah, I really am.
Okay. Penn State, it's hard to describe. Penn State to me is my home, if not like a physical address, it's my second home. I would never change where I went to school. It became such a part of me, as it does probably for everybody who goes to university, but it is such a big part of who I am, and I would not change going there for the world. I had the best time, I had the best coach, I learned so much, I matured. It was the best time of my life.

What was your reaction when you heard about the scandal with Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and other members of the athletic department?
Yeah, I was devastated. I couldn't believe it. I mean, it was ‑‑ last week was possibly the worst week of ‑‑ in my life maybe, because I've not really experienced too many people in my family dying, but it was ‑‑ to watch my university go through that, it was really, really hard, and it's really hard to ‑‑ if you don't understand it or if you didn't go there ‑‑ every other Penn Stater, we have tears in our eyes when we talk to each other. It's a huge deal. 

So, you cried? 
Yeah, I read articles last week, and I was crying. It's just a ‑‑ for everybody involved, it's a terrible situation, and of course your heart goes out to the kids who were abused and the families and just ‑‑ I feel terrible for Joe. I cannot believe that the man that he is, that if he knew more he didn't do anything about it. I don't believe that in my heart. I was so distraught. The last week was really tough. Thursday, Friday was just a really, really hard week. And of course everybody knows I'm a huge Penn State fan, so they're coming up to me and talking about it and rehashing it. 

You're a big football fan.
 Yes, oh, God, yes. I just went three weeks ago, right before everything happened. It was a birthday present from one of my friends out here, she got a ticket to the Penn State game against Illinois. 

So you attended Paterno's 409th career win.
Yeah, I saw his last home game. 
Was that meaningful to you? 
Yeah, it was. To me, the university is built on morals and respect because of Joe. It's really hard to describe, but Joe is like the grandfather or the father figure, and for him to go out like this, for him to be fired over the phone, for him to ‑‑ they're talking about taking his statue off the campus and his name off the library, it is so disheartening what is going on with him, and it does not ‑‑ I want to make sure that I definitely feel for the children of the families. I am not taking away from that situation because it's a terrible, devastating thing. But Joe made Penn State what it is, and for him to be fired over the phone like that, to me it's not right. 

The times you met JoePa, what were your impressions of him?
Just a great guy. He lived in the same house for 60 years three blocks from campus. He walked home from the football games. He was very visible, talked to everybody. We didn't have in‑depth conversations, but he was nice enough, he was exercising, he was walking around the block, and he said, “Hey, how you doing? You play a sport.” So he knows I'm the only Penn Stater out here playing golf. He’s very casual, very comfortable, very welcoming, as you would think of your grandfather. Just a down‑to‑earth guy.

How do you think this will impact Penn State as a whole?
One thing about Penn Staters is we're extremely proud of our school, and I feel we're pretty resilient. Even in this time I feel we're going to be just fine. Time will tell. Time will be of an essence at this school, really helpful. 

How have you been able to put your emotions about it aside during tournaments?
Last week [at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational], I wasn't able to put my emotions aside. I was just like a zombie out there. It was really, really hard. But you know, you go through the gamut of emotions, you go from sad to angry to embarrassed to “we can get through this,” all these things, and it's so interesting because I had nothing to do with it. It was nothing I could control. But it still affects you as a student body, as an alumni body, just to see how your school is now ruined essentially. 

How do you feel now?
I'm better. We'll get better and we'll be better for it, and it'll be an awakening, not just for Penn Staters but anybody in that situation to be more adamant in vocalizing abuse if you see it and all these things, so maybe some good will come out of it.
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