Lehigh women’s golf sophomore Yuki Zhu was completely silent on the course as she was finishing out her second round of a weekend tournament at the Bucknell Invitational earlier this month.
Although golf is already typically a quiet game, Lehigh women’s golf coach Mary Lynch said Zhu’s refraining from speaking is a sign of her focus.
“When she’s playing well she’s usually very quiet and focused,” Lynch said.
Zhu ended the tournament shooting a 69, the second-lowest score in program history, becoming the first Lehigh women’s golfer to shoot under par twice in her career.
Along with her standout talents on the course, Zhu is the only international student on the team, having grown up in Shanghai, China.
Her father’s love for golf rubbed off on her, she said. One day, when she was 5 years old, he took her to a golf course for the first time, and from there, golf just stuck.
She said it was in her nature to enjoy golf and felt it was more enjoyable than sitting in a classroom and plugging numbers into a calculator all day.
Zhu said the transition from China to Lehigh was made much easier through the support of her teammates, especially those with Chinese backgrounds.
Zhu went to high school with one of her teammates, sophomore Evelyn Wong, which provided a familiar face among all the unfamiliarity. Wong attended high school at Shanghai Pinghe School with Zhu but lives permanently in the U.S.
Along with Wong, Zhu attributes her smooth transition to Lynch and assistant coach Adam Benza. She said the coaching staff makes sure to check in about her school work and personal life outside golf.
“Our coach, our team…they definitely help me to focus more on the golf course and not have to worry about other stuff,” Zhu said.
On the course, Zhu found a role model and friendly competition with junior teammate Madison Pineda.
Both players have achieved impressive results in their Lehigh women’s golf careers so far, having been named first-team All-Patriot League as first-year students. Zhu also said they both have similar playing styles.
“We always like to compete with each other even if we aren’t playing in a tournament,” Zhu said. “I feel like that’s very helpful because you have that competition going on within the team and then that just helps each other improve a lot.”
Both players strive to stay focused on their individual game in order to perform to their own standards as well as help the team as best they can, Pineda said.
Zhu said she looks up to Pineda as an older member of the team.
“I do try and hope to be a positive role model for (Zhu), as I want to help her improve in any way that I can, but I also love to compete with her for fun,” Pineda said. “It pushes us both to be better players.”
After her honor-earning performance as a first-year, Zhu said she didn’t want to just sit back — she knew she could still improve and do even better than she did last year.
Back in her hometown, Zhu spent the entire summer on the golf course with her coach from when she was a junior golfer. She now said she feels her most confident and her game is in much better shape than last season.
Extra attention given to her strength training is what Zhu thinks has allowed her to hit the ball farther than she ever could before.
“She worked incredibly hard this summer, and it’s really showing right away,” Lynch said. “Coming in this season I think the sky’s the limit this year for her.”
Looking into the season, Zhu said she and the team feel strong and are looking forward to showcasing their new skills in the Lehigh Invitational on Oct. 23-24.