Golf helps Bae get into swing of things
As a way to mesh better socially after leaving her native South Korea eight years ago to live with relatives in Raleigh, High Point University freshman Sarah Bae began playing golf.
“It was a way for me to communicate with other people because English is my second language,” Bae said. “So, why not?”
She chose golf in part because her uncle John Armstrong could help teach her from tips picked up during 30 years of caddying on the PGA and Champions Tours. Part of that experience included working for Al Geiberger, including, according to Bae, being on the bag the day Geiberger became the first player to shoot a 59 in a PGA event.
“He has a lot of knowledge of golf so why not start playing,” Bae said.
“It has really helped me get used to American culture because if you do something with other people, and it could b e something other than golf, if you see them do things, you can learn from them.”
Bae proved to be a quick learner on the golf course and began playing in tournaments in the sixth grade. In high school, she led Raleigh Athens Drive to NCHSAA 4A championships as a freshman in 2009 and again as a junior in 2011, and was medalist in the 4A championship last season. A frequent winner of junior tournaments, she had been picked as the Carolinas Junior Girls Player of the Year three times.
With that resume, it was a bit surprising that she became the second straight top player from North Carolina to choose to play for an HPU women’s program that hasn’t had a winning tradition for several years.
“I thought why not start help start one,” Bae said. “But, I chose High Point because I found it be very supportive. And coach (Vici Pate Flesher) is phenomenal. She really didn’t say much when she was recruiting me. What makes me think highly of her is motivation. She wants us to do well and I want to be part of that, to be part of a team that can be pretty good.”
Bae didn’t waste any time helping Flesher’s efforts to turn the program around. In her first college tournament, she was medalist two weeks ago in the Terrier Invitational while HPU posted its first tournament win in eight years.
“It feels great to start on such a high note, not only me but also the team,” Bae said. “It gives us a good place to start. It gives us confidence.”
She had plenty of confidence in choosing to start the season as the Panthers’ No. 1 player.
“Not all freshmen are comfortable playing at No. 1, “ Flesher said. “I told her she could play at No. 2 or 3 but she wanted to play at No. 1.”
While the Panthers were getting ready for the Myrtle Beach Invitational which begins on Monday, Bae kept the Terrier win in perspective.
“I’ve won tournaments so that part wasn’t any different,” Bae said. “But, I did find the competition in college is tougher than in high school. And I found out how I should handle myself.
“Golf is a sport in which you are always learning. What this has done is give us plenty of confidence. Winning has just motivated me to work harder on my game.
Bae won the Terrier tournament with a 143 total that was one stroke over the school record for 36 holes.
“Everyone knows how good she is,” Flesher said. “She’s got as much potential as any player I’ve coached. She’s got to keep looking ahead. Some players, they’ll go from a low score to a high score. Sarah doesn’t have those swings. She’s going to remain solid. If she can keep lowering those scores, she can have a great future.”