Kristyna Napoleaova: From title-winning footballer to professional golfer in three years


Fast forward three and a half years into 2020, Napoleaova is a professional golfer after her rapid rise through amateur golf and the Women’s European Tour (LET) – LET Developmental Tour Access Series.

Napoliova described the experience in Jeddah as “absolutely insane” – from arriving at the airport to a man holding a sign with her name on it to the golf course itself – while also admitting she was a bit surprised when she realized she was linked to Solheim Cup player Anne Van Dam and Hall about her role on Saturday. .

“After Friday’s tour, when I learned that I would be playing with Anne (Van Dam) and Georgia (Hall), I was very happy,” Napoliova explained.

“You hear about these guys and you just want to get close to them in the driving field and play with them in one group, I knew it would be a very nice experience.

“I’ve gotten some pictures of how I’d like to transition to the golf course after this experience on Saturday, so it sure gave me a lot and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

“As soon as I heard about it, I was like, ‘Okay, I need to get a picture on the first tee. I don’t take pictures before that happens. “Fortunately, they sorted it out for me which was really nice of them.”

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As a child, Napoliova remembers trying a range of different sports, including tennis, basketball, and floorball.

However, it was another sport that she fell in love with, largely to Brazilian stars of the time like Ronaldinho and Ronaldo: football.

As a young woman, Napoliova had an extraordinary amount of success, claiming six Czech League titles in multiple age groups, as well as representing her country in the U-15, U-17 and U19 teams.

She has already started making plans for her football career, with the aim of going and playing in a college in the United States. She remembers getting some offers when she was 16 but her “mother didn’t want her” to go.

Moreover, injuries started to affect her football career.

She explained that she ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee at the age of 13 but “nobody knew about it” so she never had surgery, playing it “another three or four years”.

Then before she finally went for surgery, she tore her right ACL as well as her meniscus.

“So I guess by the time I was 17 I would have finished playing at all,” she recalls.

“But because I was on a contract with AC Sparta Prague for such things, so I stayed in the team, but became a referee for two years, so I was basically trying to do something different like a career path.”

After these injuries, and after realizing that a football career might not be bearable, Napoliova rediscovered golf.

Napoliova plays her part during the Women's Czech Tipsport Open in Biron, Czech Republic on June 27, 2021.

make a change

Despite the bad memories she once had when she was trying golf, Napoliova opted for amusement parks, this time in an effort to spend more time with her parents during the holidays while she was at university.

“When I picked it up, when I was 20, it was just like a different sport,” she said.

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In her first event, Napoliova played so well that the guys in her group joked with her that she would one day become a professional.

Napoliova knew from her football experience that things weren’t going to be that easy.

“It will never happen because I know how long and all it takes to reach a certain level. Like I went through with football and grew up with it, I know it doesn’t come easy. It’s not easy.”

Choosing where to study for a master’s degree in international business was Napoliova’s next big decision. Her last two choices were between St Andrews – the home of golf – or the University of Stirling.

She settled in St Andrews, in part due to the area’s historical importance, and decided to give her golfing career a year off to allow it to grow or fade.

With the help of financial support from her parents, it turned out to be the best decision Napoliova ever made.

growth

She describes herself as a “feeling” player, which means that while her style might not be perfect, it didn’t hold her back.

Another feature that Napoliova thinks she’s discovered is that she comes into the sport a little later than most.

“I think the biggest advantage I see, and I know from football, is that a lot of people are finishing up between the ages of 15 and 20,” she said.

“Because I started so late, I got the advantage of being new to the sport, pretty much as ambitious and enthusiastic and I’m not bored with it. I absolutely love it.

“Every day, I’m so grateful that I can do it. So I think it’s one of the things I feel very lucky about. And I used to feel the disadvantage of not playing for so long but I don’t see anymore. I consider it an advantage. As if I see a flaw in it, I won’t move forward.” And I think that’s the thing that makes me go a step further again.”

Napoleaova earned her chances on the professional stage via the LET Access Tour, before earning her spot on the LET herself via a Q-School qualification.

She describes the arrival tour as “very helpful”, but she always knew she wanted more because she “was always ambitious”.

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However, after a steady start to the 2022 season, her season blossomed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Despite being just a rookie, Napoliova took a share of the lead with Georgia Hall midway through the Saudi Women’s International. And although she finished five shots behind Hall in second place, it was the Czech golfer’s best achievement.

This was her first top 10 LET debut, earning her nearly $68,000 in the process.

Napoliova admits she felt “nervous” at finishing on Sunday, but says she has felt “silent confidence” all week.

“I still feel like I’m in a dream or something. I don’t think it’s still a launcher. I understand I’m second, but I don’t feel like it changes anything, but it’s probably a career changer. And I think I’ll realize soon.”

She continued her career best second place finish with a ninth place finish at the Joburg Women’s Open to continue her good form.

With the help of her coach, Napoleaova worked to set short, medium and long-term goals, one of which is to climb into the top 500 in the world rankings she has already achieved.

“I would like to play the Olympics at some point, and I’d better get a great medal,” Napoliova added.

“But what I want in general is I’d like to have an LPGA, and then at least win one event or major event and … become No. 1 in the world. I know it’s a very long opportunity and it probably will never last happen.”



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