Salas back in spotlight, so are political questions

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Lizette Salas made a bold crossing in the Twitterverse the day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

She reached outside her usual golf focus in that space to make her disappointment known in the election results.

First, she retweeted actor Chris Evans’ strong statement on election day (Nov. 8).

And then Salas added her own feelings a day later.

There were a few other tweets and retweets during those two days, but Salas quickly moved back into the place she’s more comfortable, back into life as a tour player.

But with Salas leading the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open going into Sunday’s final, her opinions on matters outside golf are suddenly newsworthy again. She’s the child of Mexican immigrants and proud of her heritage. She opened herself to political questions with her public tweets, and Australian media obliged.

After Saturday’s round, Salas was asked about her level of “discomfort” with “the change” in the American government.

“That’s a really hard question,” Salas said. “I like to stay away from politics. I know I have expressed how I felt, and I think everyone is entitled to express that. There is going to be a lot of change, but I think our country is ready for it. I think we can come together and become stronger.

“But as far as my opinion about our new president, I don’t really have anything to say.”

Salas was thrust into political debate during Trump’s presidential campaign. She was besieged by a swarm of cameramen and reporters in Scotland two summers ago, with the Ricoh Women’s British Open being played at Trump Turnberry. Trump’s much ballyhooed arrival on the property via helicopter came shortly before Salas finished the first round.

After signing her scorecard that day, Salas was peppered with questions about what she thought of Trump’s controversial comments on illegal immigration, on Mexico “not sending its best,” but sending “people who have lots of problems,” including “rapists.”

Salas handled the media onslaught in Scotland with admirable grace, with a diplomat’s deft touch.

“I’m not a politician,” she said in Scotland. “My job is to win golf tournaments. “Everyone has a right to say what they feel. That is what’s great about living in the United States. I’m happy to be the child of Mexican immigrants, and I’m proud of my heritage.”

Salas is likely to face more questions like these, especially when she plays her way on to leaderboards, and especially with the U.S. Women’s Open scheduled to be played at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey July 13-16.

For now, Salas’ focus is on winning in Australia. Her strong family ties are there for everyone to see. Her father, Ramon, is there with her. She would love to win her second LPGA title for him.

When Salas broke through to win for the first time at the Kingsmill Championship three seasons ago, her father couldn’t be there.

“He was watching on the television,” Salas said. “So this would mean a lot. To bounce back from the year that I had last year, it would mean a lot.”

If you know Salas’ story, you know the strength of her bond with her parents. She got her start in golf when her father struck a deal with the head pro at Azusa Greens in suburban Los Angeles, where she grew up. Ramon was the head mechanic of the Azusa Greens grounds crew. When Ramon did some personal work for the pro there, instead of accepting payment, he asked if the pro could give his daughter lessons.

When Salas traveled the Symetra Tour after a stellar career at USC, she did so with her father, in his Toyota pickup truck. They spent more than one night sleeping in rest areas. Salas is living the American dream for more than herself, for more than her parents, she will say.

“When I was younger, I thought I was at a disadvantage because of where I grew up and what I didn’t have,” Salas once said. “But looking back, that is what made me who I am, and I’m very proud of that. Now, I’m in a position to help grow golf in Mexico and the U.S. I want to help grow the game, to get kids to play the game.”