November 19, 2010 8:40:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Korakot Simsiriwong has loved the game of golf ever since she could remember.
Growing up in Thailand, her father played the game and was a great fan, so it was only natural that Simsiriwong had a set of clubs as soon as she was able to swing.
It has been a long time since Simsiriwong, 17, had her first set of plastic clubs, but all of that work years ago came to fruition Thursday when she had a ceremony to announce her signing a National Letter of Intent with Marshall University.
The Starkville Academy senior, who is also known as Korn, which is pronounced gaan, has played golf since she was 8. She moved to Starkville with her sister when she was in seventh grade. She considered attending Mississippi State University, but she fell in love with Marshall and Huntington, W. Va., after her official visit.
"It is one place that when you walk away you are like, ''Wow, I can call that home and I can really fit in,'' " Simsiriwong said. "It was hard in the first few weeks of trying to decide. I made the right decision."
Simsiriwong also visited East Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Nova Southeastern, and Lynn University on official visits and MSU on an official visit. She plans to study biology and hopes to go into medical school.
Simsiriwong picked Marshall even though her sister, Jutima, 27, is a Ph.D student in aerospace engineering at MSU. She said her sister didn''t try to influence her decision and encouraged her to go someplace else and experience something different.
Those plans will include a higher level of golf. Simsiriwong, a veteran of Mississippi Junior Golf Association events, has dreamed of playing golf in college for years. She also aspires to graduate to the LPGA Tour and is anxious to see how she fares in college.
"I don''t know if I am ready. We''ll just have to see," Simsiriwong said. "Coach Meredith Knight Rowsey is a great coach. I am more than 110 percent sure I will get better with her as my coach."
Simsiriwong credits Tony Luczak, a Professional Golf Association instructor and director of the MSU Golf Course, for guiding her through the college recruiting process. She said he also has helped her with her mental game and has been so much more than a coach in the past three years.
"He is a great, great golf coach," Simsiriwong said. "He is the best one I have had. I have gone through about 30 golf instructors and swing coaches, and he knows what he is doing."
Starkville Academy golf coach Chris Lyle will have to wait until 2011 to work with Simsiriwong, who is in his first year as the team''s coach, said it is a credit to Simsiriwong''s hard work that she was able to realize the opportunity to earn a Division I scholarship.
"I look for a lot of fabulous things from her," Lyle said. "I think any athlete wants to compete at the highest level. For her to put in the time and the effort that it takes to get there, that has to be a goal. You can her attribute her success to her dedication and hard work away from school-related golf. It is paying off now and, hopefully, a lot more in the future."
As a sophomore, Simsiriwong led Starkville Academy to a first-place finish in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA North Tournament and went on to finish fifth at the state tournament. She was 15th among all competitors at the overall tournament.
As a junior, Simsiriwong was nominated for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum''s PopStar Award, which recognizes the top prep athletes in each sport. She also won the MAIS overall tournament with a score of 70 at Patrick Farms in Pearl.
Earlier this tear, Simsiriwong competed in the Optimist Junior International Championships in West Palm Beach, Fla. She finished seventh in the 16- to 18-year-old division with a four-day total of 300 in the 72-hole, stroke play tournament.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.