Taking the next step: Thammaraks leaves behind legacy, remembers teammates and coaches


Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Prima Thammaraks, senior from Thailand, in the new Iowa State Golf Performance Facility south of campus. 

Mike Randleman

When she first arrived to Ames four years ago, Prima Thammaraks’ first impression of Iowa was not too favorable.

Right before she was set to arrive late in summer 2010, Ames received one of the biggest floods in city history, one that shut down much of the city and left Hilton Coliseum inundated with water.

The dire conditions and change of climate left the Bangkok, Thailand native a little uncertain of what she was about to get herself into.

“We landed in Cedar Rapids and me and my parents had never visited before, so I didn’t know if the school was just going to pop out of the corn fields or what,” Thammaraks said. “The first day was pretty much the worst day because after our 20-hour flight we couldn’t use the water because everything was shut down from the flood, it was just terrible.”

Despite the uncertainties, Thammaraks stuck to her commitment to be a Cyclone. Now a senior, Thammaraks’ affinity for Iowa, along with her career as a golfer, has grown exponentially.

“I can definitely say every day has gotten better since the first day,” Thammaraks said.

Indeed it has.

As a freshman, Thammaraks stepped in right away and contributed to a team that recorded the best finish in program history at the NCAA Regionals, a tie for 10th place.

“She came in with her game at a very high level,” said ISU coach Christie Martens. “Because of that, she’s really been able to elevate the whole team.”

Thammaraks finished 108th in the Golfweek/Sagarin individual rankings, her highest season-ending finish, and earned All-Big 12 Coaches Team honors.

Now a four-year starter, the success did not stop there.

With seven top-10 finishes, the second-lowest 54-hole total in program history and a projected second-best career scoring average, Thammaraks owns an assortment of Iowa State records and accomplishments.

Though she came to Iowa State as a talented prospect, teammates and coaches credit her competitive desire as a key ingredient to her ascension in the college ranks.

“Prima is a hard-working girl. When she wants something she really goes after it,” said teammate Cajsa Persson.

Martens said Thammaraks’ competitiveness and demeanor on the course is what caught her eye during the recruitment process.

“She’s really, really competitive. She wants to be great and I think she’s really driven by improvement and wanting to be the best,” Martens said. “She’s really self-motivated and just a fierce competitor.”

Thammaraks will admit that she sometimes has to reign in her competitiveness, but without it she would not be the same player.

Off the course, she brings the same passion from her golf game to the classroom. In three consecutive years Thammaraks earned All-Big 12 Academic honors as an art and design major.

“She’ll leave a legacy striving for greatness; she’s an academic All-American in design,” Martens said. “When other people are getting C’s and D’s in these classes and saying they can’t get in [to programs], she’s getting A’s.”

When looking back on her career, Thammaraks is proud of all the accolades, but what she will remember most is the memories with her teammates. Whether it was roasting marshmallows by the fire on Spring Break, team get-togethers on holidays or just at practice, she looks most favorably on the time with her teammates and the unique path each player took to arrive at Iowa State.

“I think one of my favorite parts is when we share our different cultures. I think it’s cool how all the different cultures blend like Thai, all the European cultures with Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Spain,” Thammaraks said. “Then how we all came together here in Iowa to form the Iowa State women’s golf team. It’s just kind of a miracle.”

As Thammaraks prepares for her final postseason run, the reality has set in that her time as a Cyclone is coming to a close. For now, her sights are set on trying to lead her team to its first appearance at the NCAA Nationals, but her golf career will not end at Iowa State.

She plans to follow her dream of playing in the LPGA by competing in the tour’s qualifying tournament series this summer, but the prospect of competing without her coaches and teammates will take some getting used to.

“I tell coach everyday that I’m going to be so sad, I don’t know if I can do it because it’s going to be the same thing, but without my teammates or coaches,” Thammaraks said. “Just thinking about it brought tears to my eyes, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to be able to do it?’ But it’s just another step in life you have to take.”

Just as it will be a challenge to replace the experience Thammaraks has had at Iowa State, Martens will face an equally daunting challenge of replacing both Thammaraks and senior Sasikarn On-iam, two of Iowa State’s most decorated golfers.

“It keeps me up every night. They’ve been a huge, huge impact on our program,” Martens said. “We’ve got some great players coming in next year, but they’re going to be really, really hard to replace. As golfers, as students they’ve done so much for the program.”