It was 10 o’clock one summer night two decades ago when 4-year-old Demi Runas got the golf bug in Carson, CA. Her father, Arnulfo, a Filipino immigrant, wanted to hit golf balls so he took little Demi along on a baby-sitting venture. Soon enough, Demi was a regular, smacking balls in suburban Los Angeles from the double-deck driving range that included an adjacent18-hole, lighted par-3 course with the welcoming giant golfer out front.
“The cool thing at first was that the golf balls popped out of the ground,” Runas said. “I didn’t have anything else to do, so I beat balls alongside my dad. That’s where it all started.”
Even though Dominguez Hills no longer exists – the high-tech Porsche Experience Center now operates there, with the giant golfer now waving a race flag – Runas is a successful product of the unusual start.
She developed her game under the eye of Don Brown, who is still her coach, and branched out to The First Tee of Los Angeles and junior golf events. She earned Big West Conference Player of the Year three times (2011-13), was second-team All-American in 2013 and the University of California-Davis female athlete of the year in 2013. Good things continued as she turned professional, with 13 wins on various mini-tours.
This year, her first on the Symetra Tour, Runas has finished tied for third twice (Volvik Championship in Los Angeles and last week’s Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial in Ft. Myers, FL). She is ninth on the Symetra Tour money list, within the top 10 and in position to earn a LPGA card for 2015.
It turns out Runas is a perfectionist – or as she phrased it, “fastidious,” in a Symetra Tour questionnaire – so letting go of bad shots was a learning experience. One of her friends said she was the neatest baker she had ever seen – with no flour strewn all about.
“I’m learning that I can’t get too wrapped up in one particular event or one hole,” Dunas said. “There’s always the opportunity the following week. I used to get pretty bummed, but you’ve got to be patient to be a good player. Keep your head up, get the ball in the hole. Keep a positive attitude.”
It’s her hope that Arnulfo and Lydia, both from The Philippines, will one day soon see their daughter playing on the LPGA. Add in her 92-year-old grandmother, whom she recently visited in The Philippines for the first time in 11 years.
“I realized after playing for five weeks in a row and expecting to be tired – and wasn’t – that this is what I’m bound to do for the rest of my life more than anything else,” Runas said.