Scholar & Athlete
IT SEEMED CLEAR FROM THE START that Elizabeth Wang was destined for great things. Not yet 7 years old, she was living with her family in Colorado and was competing in her first golf tournament when she stepped up to a 112-yard par-3 with a driver in her hands. She struck it perfectly. And the ball wound up in the hole.
“That hole-in-one really boosted my interest,” Wang said, laughing at the memory. She didn’t see it go in the hole, but she saw the reaction of people around the green. “Everyone was really excited.”
Things are still very exciting for Wang, now 18 and living in San Marino. She has had an extraordinary career in junior golf that already includes two successful appearances in LPGA Tour events. She’s also just beginning her college career at Harvard, where she will play golf and begin
studying political science until another field captures her fancy.
Wang is quick-witted and thoughtful. An SCGA Junior Scholar Award winner, she peppers her discussions with a contagious laugh. She can be confident one moment, humble the next, philosophical the moment after that.
On what makes golf a special sport: “It really represents a parallel to life. It teaches resilience. You can’t completely control the outcome. Whatever happens, happens. But no matter what happens, you can always bounce back.”
On her golf game: “I have a lot to work on, a long way to go. I would like to be a little more thoughtful. I just kind of hit it and see where it goes, hit it and think later.” She laughs again. “I definitely have to work on that.”
On the support from her family: “Golf can be frustrating. It can be discouraging, but my parents [Peter and Patricia] always keep me going and help me see the light at the end of the tunnel when I’m in a slump. I can make mountains out of molehills, and they try to help me keep perspective.”
Peter often caddies for Elizabeth, and did so in June during the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Wang made it into the field by finishing second in qualifying at her home course (Industry Hills GC at Pacific Palms Resort), made the cut and finished tied for 34th at 6-over-par, despite a disappointing final round 77. She skipped her high school graduation to play in that event, a small price to pay for a second opportunity to match her skills against the best players in women’s golf.
“It’s a pleasure to be around such a good citizen, who gives back to the game and who understands what a privilege it is to be able to do all the things she can do.”
Two years ago, as a 16-year-old, Wang received an exemption into the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, thanks to her win at the Junior PGA Championship the previous August. She finished tied for 31st at 5-under, only 1 shot out of a top-15 finish.
Both experiences left her with images that reinforce her appreciation for the level of play on tour and her desire to match her game against elite players.
She remembers watching Megan Khang drop one 10-foot putt after another. “It was awesome, very motivating.” And the image of hard hitting Brit Charley Hull, who doesn’t actually come out of her shoes when she smacks a drive, but wouldn’t surprise anyone if she did. “She’s just so powerful, and to see her maintain her focus whether she hit the ball well or not was really something.”
Of her own play, she said, “I looked at myself after the tournament, and oh my gosh, I hit only 50 percent of the fairways. I have to work on that.”
Wang’s golf résumé includes three American Junior Golf Association victories, four Rolex Junior All-American selections, two round-of-16 appearances in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and a Rolex AJGA No. 2 national ranking for the class of 2018.
In the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August, Wang ousted World No. 1 amateur Jennifer Kupcho, the reigning NCAA individual champion, in the round of 64 before losing in 20 holes to Jaclyn Lee of Canada in the round of 16.
Wang was philosophical about that match. “I played well. I was 4-under after 18,” she said. “My opponent just played better, she didn’t make a single bogey, and
there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m happy with the way I played.”
For the last year and a half, Wang has traveled to Las Vegas a couple times a month to work with Vic Wilk at the Butch Harmon School of Golf. Wilk, a winner on
what was then the Nike Tour, likes what he sees in Wang, as a player and a person.
“She’s very smart, learns from her mistakes,” he said. “We’re working on her putting and short game, we’ve increased her power quite a bit in the last year. She’s
got great tenacity and can turn it on on the golf course. It’s a pleasure to be around such a good citizen, who gives back to the game and who understands what a privilege it is to be able to do all the things she can do.”
Wilk usually finds Wang already working on the range before his sessions with her, and she’ll keep working alone for three or four hours afterward.
“She’s not being overly pushed to do anything,” he said. “It’s her idea most of the time. She’s just got a great ethic; she’s not afraid to work.”
He believes she has what it takes to make a living at the top level.
“She doesn’t really realize how good she is yet,” he said. “Getting her the confidence to believe in her skills is the final piece for her.”
If professional golf doesn’t work out, well, she’ll have that Harvard degree to fall back on. Wang had her heart set on the Ivy Leagueschool for years; she applied to no other colleges and was granted early admission.
She was hitting golf balls at her home away from home on the range at Industry Hills when she checked the portal online and saw that she had been accepted.
“I screamed so loud I woke my father up; he was sleeping,” she said, again, naturally, laughing at the memory. “Pretty much everything stopped on the range.”
Wang is working hard to refine those skills that first showed themselves years ago in Colorado. And lest anyone think that 112-yard hole in one was a fluke, the number
of aces now stands at six … and counting.