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The junior chemistry major begins play Tuesday in the NCAA Division III women's championship in Destin, Fla.
Courtesy of Hollins University
Elizabeth Cheng has reached as high as eighth in the golfstat.com Division III player rankings this season.
Courtesy of Hollins University
Elizabeth Cheng has a 3.89 GPA in chemistry at Hollins and plans to become a pharmacist.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Elizabeth Cheng’s golfing career could have been over almost before it started.
Cheng, who will represent Hollins in the Division III women’s golf championship starting today, was introduced to golf in the year before high school.
When Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach held tryouts in the fall of 2005, she shot 130 for 18 holes.
“She had a nice swing and I think that’s why her coach [Gary Spedden] kept her,” Yiu Cheng, Elizabeth’s father said. “I know my daughter — she’s like my wife, a perfectionist — so I knew she would probably work at it.”
Not that Elizabeth is obsessed with golf. Cheng, a junior, is a chemistry major at Hollins, where she has a 3.89 grade-point average, with plans to become a pharmacist after college.
She admits had never heard about Hollins until her senior year in high school.
“We were looking around at schools, looking at class size, her major, the golf opportunities,” Cheng’s father said. “I just happened to stumble across the [Hollins] website and I saw a girl who had played against Elizabeth in high school.
“That girl was from northern Virginia. And, they were about the same level. So, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe [Elizabeth] could play here.’ So, I sent an email to the coach and he responded almost immediately.”
Bill Mannino, now in his sixth season as the Hollins golf coach, previously had served as the head men’s coach at Temple and says he recruits “a lot.” He invited the Chengs to southwestern Virginia for a visit.
“I especially liked the small class size and the [absence] of boys,” Yiu Cheng said. “She wasn’t too crazy about that, but I said, ‘It’s a great school, they’ve got a major and you can play golf.’ She agreed.”
Hollins is the alma mater of Carol Semple Thompson, who has had perhaps the most outstanding amateur career for a woman in U.S. golf history.
According to Mannino, Thompson didn’t play golf at Hollins, where her sports were field hockey, lacrosse and basketball.
There have been some other outstanding women’s golfers at Hollins, including Roanokers Ann Patrick in the 1970s and Vickie Kasza in the last decade.
Kasza was 16th in the Division III tournament in 2008.
None of them had the distinction of being named Old Dominion Athletic Conference player of the year, an honor that recently came Cheng’s way. That was because the ODAC didn’t recognize women’s golf as a championship sport until this year.
Cheng said she was disappointed to finish in a second-place tie at the ODAC tournament, but her spirits were lifted May 5, when she was named Hollins sportswoman of the year.
The competition included basketball player Jasmine Greene, who had won the award in 2012 and was the ODAC scoring champion this year.
Cheng admitted it had crossed her mind that she might be this year’s recipient, but said she “was just there [at the banquet] to enjoy it and hear about all the other teams and their accomplishments.”
Cheng’s dad hopes she will continue to play golf after graduation, and Elizabeth is scheduled to play against other collegians this summer. Her biggest win during the season came at the Jekyll Island Invitational, where the field included 10 of the top-20 ranked players in Division III.
Cheng has been as high as eighth in the golfstat.com rankings, not shabby considering her slight, 5-foot-1, 110-pound build.
“If I’m playing really well, the best part of my game is my short game because I don’t hit it as far as the other girls,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I’d gain some distance if I worked out more. I just deal with it.”
Clearly, her priorities are in order. She was able to practice for a few hours Thursday at Hollins’ home course, Ashley Plantation, but also had her mind on an exam she had to complete before a Sunday departure for Destin, Fla.
Mannino, a scratch golfer, accompanied Cheng. Her father, a manager in the shipping and ports business, will remain at home because he makes her nervous.
“People say I’m very competitive,” she said. “I just try to do the best in everything I do.”
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