July 22, 2011
One of the top Cowgirls in Wyoming golf history, Laura Mengelkamp translated her success on the course as a student-athlete into a press secretary career in fast-paced Washington, D.C. WyomingAthletics.com's second "Where Are They Now" feature caught up with Mengelkamp to see where life has taken her since leaving Laramie.
A native of Dover, Pa., Mengelkamp lettered at UW from 2005-08 and finished her playing career owning two individual and two team records for the Cowgirls. In the fall of 2006 she shot a school-record individual round of 69 (-3), as well as the school record for low event score of 217 (+1). As a senior, she led her team to all-time UW marks for low team round (291) and event score (891), including two event runner-up team finishes in 2007-08. Mengelkamp competed in all 47 events UW played in during her four-year career and had the low stroke average on her team each season, including finishing her career with an average of 77.50. At the time of her graduation, she owned the second, third, fourth and fifth best season stroke averages in Cowgirl history. She had one career event title, 10 top-five finishes and 29 in the top-25 of a major field.
Mengelkamp graduated from UW in the fall of 2008 and majored in political science, as well as environmental and natural resources, with a 3.6 grade-point average. A two-time All-American Scholar by the National Golf Coaches Association, she was also honored as a four-time Academic All-Mountain West Conference and twice as an MWC Scholar-Athlete.
Mengelkamp went on to turn her political science major into a job with Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and has since excelled under his tutelage in the nation's capital.
Tell us a little about what you've done since graduating from UW and where you find yourself now.
In the late spring of 2008, I started working on John Barrasso's Senate campaign. Working on the campaign was a fantastic experience. I was lucky enough to learn from some really talented people--as well as get to know the Senator and his family very well. After working on the campaign, I knew I wanted to stay in politics, but still wanted a tie to Wyoming.
So, in February of 2009 I moved to Washington, D.C. to work as Senator Barrasso's Press Assistant. In April of 2010 I was promoted to Press Secretary. Working for Senator Barrasso has been an incredible experience. The Senator always goes out of his way to make sure I'm constantly learning new things and meeting extraordinary people.
That's a very interesting job for someone so young. What would you say is the best part of being a press secretary for a senator?
The best part is literally having a front row seat to history. Every day I wake up not always knowing what will happen that day and that definitely keeps it interesting and keeps me on my toes. I'm also a huge history nerd, so walking through the halls of the Capitol and the Senate office buildings every day never gets old.
One of the other neat things about being a press secretary is the fact that you have to learn about all of the issues--as opposed to legislative staff who mainly focus in on only their specific subject areas. If I don't know the issues, I won't be able to help prepare press releases, statements, etc. The other great thing about being a press secretary is I get to staff the Senator on a lot of his interviews and it's always fun meeting the media personalities and other guests in the green room or studio.
You obviously deal with a lot of high-profile people in your work. Who have you met that has impressed you the most?
This is a tough question to answer. I've been fortunate enough to meet a lot of high profile politicians, media personalities, etc., but it's hard to pick one. Honestly, the one that sticks out in my mind the most is someone I actually met at a conference in DC right before I started on the campaign in 2008. I had the honor of meeting one of my idols, former White House Press Secretary under President Bush, Tony Snow. I watched Tony throughout my college years and thought the world of him, so when I had the chance to meet him I was blown away. I met him about 6 months before he lost his battle with cancer, but I'll never forget how he went out of his way to visit with students after the conference. He was definitely a class act and someone I hope to one day emulate.
Also, I have to say meeting Jon Stewart on the set of the Daily Show in New York City was also a very cool experience. He sat down with a bunch of press secretaries from the Hill and took our questions for quite a long time. I went into that meeting thinking he would just be a complete goofball like he normally is on his show, but he wasn't. I don't always agree with his politics, but he did impress me with how serious he was about trying to change the way things are done in Washington. It was definitely a side of Jon Stewart that few people have the opportunity to witness.
You're one of the most successful golfers in Cowgirl history. How did that success on the golf course help you find success in life?
There are so many lessons I've learned from golf that I use every day in my job. The most important lesson is learning how to be a team player. Even though golf is more of an individual sport, you always knew that your teammates were counting on you to come through with a low score, or counting on your help and support. The same is true of my job now. Senator Barrasso's staff is one big team working together for the people of Wyoming. If we didn't work well together, nothing would get done.
Another lesson I learned from golf: you always have to be prepared to perform under pressure. The same is true now. So many times we have to react very quickly to the news of the day, and there is a lot of pressure to get the Senator's message out there in a timely manner.
Also, the pace I had to keep up with as a student-athlete and trying to balance my studies with golf, has profoundly helped me adapt to the pace of my current job. I used to think that being a student-athlete was time demanding, but being a press secretary on the Hill is equally as demanding. Thanks to the time management skills I learned as a student athlete I'm able to handle the work load at my current job now.
What do you miss about being a student-athlete at Wyoming?
The thing I miss the most are of course my teammates and my coaches. I know the girls that I played with on the team were and still are my best friends and most of us stay in contact now. I think we're all so close since we spent so much time practicing, working out, traveling together to tournaments and competing together. It's kind of fun now that we're older and all have completely different lives, but whenever we get together its like almost no time has passed.
I definitely miss all of my coaches, including Josey, Joe, Jill and Je'Ney. All four of these coaches were instrumental in my success both on the course and off and I miss interacting with them every day.
I also really miss traveling and playing competitive golf. I never took that for granted, but I still went through some major college golf withdrawals after I graduated! Also, everyone in the Athletics Department was so nice to work with everyone from the Academic support staff, Media Relations staff and our strength and conditioning coaches.
You grew up on the east coast in Dover, Pa. What brought you to Laramie?
I have a bunch of family in Colorado, so I grew up thinking of the Rocky Mountains as a second home. I've always been a huge outdoor enthusiast and outside of golf my favorite things to do are snowboarding, fishing, camping and photography. So, Wyoming was the perfect backdrop for all of my interests. When I first came to Laramie on my recruiting trip I fell in love with the University and my teammates. The fact that the UW golf team was part of the very competitive Mountain West Conference, and had a strong competitive schedule really attracted me to the program as well.
Wyoming's Political Science Department and Environment and Natural Resources program also played a huge role in my decision. I knew that at UW, I wouldn't be just another social security number, but I would actually have classes small enough where I would get to know my professors. That meant a lot to me.
With a hectic schedule, do you still find time to golf?
I didn't at first, but recently I've really tried to get back into playing as much golf as I can. It's hard in DC though, since most of the courses around here are either private, extremely expensive or just overcrowded. But, I really miss playing competitively, so my goal is to try to play in a few tournaments at the end of the summer and maybe try to qualify for another USGA event.
Where Are They Now Archives
July 12, 2011 - Brian Lee (Football)