Mexican golfer Alejandra Llaneza was a rising star on the Symetra Tour from 2012 to 2014, notching eight top-10s and her first professional win. A member of the LPGA Tour since 2013, her best finish is a T12 at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship; but her highlight to date was representing her country at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
You won the Symetra Tour's Women's Health Classic in 2015, your first professional win. What was that feeling like, knowing you'd be closer to making the LPGA?
That win helped a lot. Then I had a few not so good weeks, but I finished the year strong. I ended up in 7th place on the Symetra Tour. I've had my status for three years, but this is the first year I've had my full status.
Even though you've been an LPGA member since 2013, you elected to stay put on the Symetra Tour in 2015. Why?
It was an interesting season. I started out as conditional status and played a few tournaments on the LPGA. That's when I decided to play the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic. I happened to win that event. That set up my season to be in the top 10 on Symetra, so I decided to stay there to finish the rest of the season.
What was a goal for you in 2016?
Everything. I was already excited to start at the Bahamas [in January]. The whole year I get to play 15 events and I really enjoy them. It's great to be playing at the highest level with the top golfers in the world. I'm looking forward to improving my game.
Like your compatriot Gaby Lopez, Mexican LPGA star Lorena Ochoa was also a big influence in your life, right?
She's someone I look up to as a golfer and a person. She invited me to practice with her when I was 15 for a week when she was number 1 in the world. I got to see how the top-ranked player in the world prepared for her season. That really motivated me to keep going. She's always been there for advice and is always cheering me on, so it's been special.
You represented Mexico at the Olympics this year. What was that like?
Representing Mexico in the Olympics was actually a dream come true. I did gymnastics when I was little and dreamed of going to the Olympics. I was bummed that I couldn't go. But when I found out that golf was a part of it, I got really excited and wanted to improve my game week after week.
What did having golf back in the Olympics mean for your sport?
I think there's already been a shift in the golf culture and the way people look at golf. I think it started with Tiger Woods and the way people look at golf and fitness and how it was incorporated in the game. And now being a part of the Olympics, it will get real attention from all over the world as a real sport.
If you had to choose between winning a team event, a gold medal or a major, what would you choose?
I would choose the gold medal. I think winning a medal in the Olympics for your country is the highest goal for any athlete...Winning a gold medal for Mexico would be really special to me.
What's one thing that people should know about being a professional female golfer?
It's a lot of work, carrying heavy bags all over airports, missing flights [laughs]. But once you're on the course, all over the world, it's worth it.