Most people can only dream of going anywhere near Augusta National Golf Course.
For South Surrey teenager Ha Young Chang, who turned 15 yesterday (Sunday, March 26), that dream will come true this week, when she and her parents travel to the iconic Georgia, U.S. course where she will compete in the nationally televised Drive, Chip and Putt Championship on April 2.
“I’m excited to go to Augusta,” Chang said.
“I get to go to the Master’s tournament (April 3) practice round.”
Having won the local qualifier at Williams 9 at Meadow Park Golf Course in Tacoma Wash. (June 25, 2022), Chang advanced to the sub-regional qualifier at The Home Course in Du Pont, Wash. (Aug. 16, 2022) then again advanced to the regional qualifier at another renowned course, Pebble Beach Golf Links in California (Sept. 25, 2022).
The Elgin Park Secondary student first started golfing at age eight, when her dad – and taekwondo instructor – Minku Chang took her to the golf course with him, but she’s been doing taekwondo with him at Chang’s Taekwondo since she was three; she is a second-degree black belt and plans to test for her third degree this summer.
“Taekwondo definitely helps with golf, with the mental focus you need,” Ha Young said.
“Taekwondo helps her mentally and spiritually with golf,” he said.
“It’s such an honour,” that she gets to play at Augusta National, he said, noting he’s heard about people who live across the fence from the famed golf course, but have actually never been on the course to play golf.
Two of Ha Young’s favourite golf courses are in South Surrey: Hazelmere and Morgan Creek.
“I like playing with my Dad,” she said, noting they are competitive with each other.
“These days, she wins the most,” Minku admitted with a grin.
She’s working on improving her short game, Ha Young said, and her eventual goal is to play in the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association).
She looks up to Tiger Woods as an inspiration, as well as Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko; seeing Woods would be amazing at the Masters, Ha Young said.
To even make it this far took at lot, her proud dad said, noting that one bad shot at the regionals qualifier would have meant completely different results.
“At regionals, if you miss one stroke, you miss your chance – it’s a real pressure game,” he said.
“One mistake, you’re gone.”
Ha Young, who has been practising her driving, chipping and putting ahead of the championship, feels that she is currently strongest at putting.
She’ll compete with nine others in her age group (14-15) on April 2, with competitors getting two drives that must land in a 40-yard fairway; points are awarded on length, with the longest drive getting 10 points and the second-longest receiving nine points, all the way down to one point.
Each golfer gets to chip twice, with the cumulative distance from the hole determining the points awarded, again from 10 to one. Players each get two putts, one from 30 feet and one from 15 feet, with points awarded on cumulative distance from the hole.
Scores are then added up and a winner declared; 80 finalists in total compete (10 in each age group).
Ha Young is one of five Canadians who qualified for the championship; the other four are from Ontario.
She knows what she plans to do first, when she gets to Augusta National.
“I want to go to the putting green and test how fast the greens are,” she said.
“I feel like they’re going to be pretty quick.”