HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY PUGET SOUND
Emily Lau, a 2003 graduate of Iolani, picked Puget Sound over Creighton and Santa Clara, two Division I schools.
Lau makes a ‘Sound’ choice
Emily Lau saw herself as just another face in the crowd during her four years competing for the Iolani girls golf team.
Lau made visits to NCAA Division I Creighton and Santa Clara when considering where she wanted to attend college.
By The Numbers
» Best 18 hole score: 76 (2003-04)
» Best 36 hole tournament score: 157 (2005-06)
» Best scoring average, season: 82.8 (2003-04)
» Best scoring average, career: 82.93 (2003-06)
» Most tournament wins, season: 5 (2003-04)
» Most tournament wins, career: 9 (2003-06)
"I thought about playing golf, but if I didn't, it wasn't a big deal," Lau said.
She and her mother, Esther, also visited Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Lau decided to attend the NCAA Division III school in the Northwest Conference and with that decision came success on the golf course.
"Puget Sound has a really beautiful campus. When you visit schools you get a feeling, like this is where I should be for the next four years," Lau said. "It has been a great three and a half years so far."
UPS coach Dick Ulrich said, "She has placed in the top five of every regional tournament in our area in the past 3 1/2 years."
Through last fall Lau has been the medalist in nine tournaments, runner-up in seven others and in the top five twice during her career.
Ulrich keeps a database of students who would be a good fit for Puget Sound, a school that attracts a number of students from the 50th State. As a Division III school, there are no athletic scholarships.
"A lot of young people look at our school. They look at a variety of schools and their No. 1 priority is academics. Emily liked Puget Sound, thank goodness," Ulrich said.
Lau was in touch with Ulrich during the application process. She knew she wanted to continue in golf.
"I figured it was a D-III school and the focus would be on academics, and sports would be something extra," Lau said. "I improved from high school. I started to play smarter. After my freshman season I was motivated to play well. I didn't want to be one of those kids who came in strong, then slid downhill."
Ulrich credits Lau with being the linchpin that has turned the Loggers' program around.
"Emily has been in the top 5 percent of our conference since she came in as a freshman," Ulrich said.
"She is a very solid player. She is committed to improving and getting better. She provides leadership that perhaps we haven't had in the past. Not only have we been more successful, but we are attracting better golfers."
Lau had little difficulty adjusting to college life. She felt Iolani (class of 2003) prepared her well for the academic transition. She had spent enough time away from home and there were other freshmen from Hawaii in her dorm.
"I was pretty busy, so there was no homesickness," she said.
Lau continued her winning ways as a sophomore and was selected to play in the 2005 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament at the Mid Pine Country Club in Pinehurst, N. C. She placed 18th in a field of 60 women.
"That was a great experience, just to play on the national level. It was during finals week, but my professors worked with me to make sure I took my finals early," Lau said.
"I really want to go back this year. I think we have a great team this year, so I hope we can go as a team."
If the Loggers win the NWC Championships on April 14-15 they earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Their biggest challenge will come from the Willamette Bearcats, who are led by Whitney Ueno (Hilo '05).
Last year Lau, a pre-med major with a biology emphasis, missed two tournaments because she was studying for the Medical School Admissions Test. Then, she had to take the test during the NWC tournament and only played one day.
Last fall, Lau was second in a match against Pacific Lutheran with a 45-41--86, won the NWV Washington Fall Classic by eight strokes with a 77-84--161 and finished second in the NWV Fall Classic with a 76-78--154, two strokes behind Ueno.
Lau has captained the Loggers the last three years.
"It is a leadership role where I want to make sure that we get along and build team chemistry. The last two years we've gotten along really well," Lau said.
Ulrich says it has been fun to watch Lau grow and mature because she is very quiet. But once you get to know her you find a real nice other side.
"Emily has been consistent since her freshman year. She holds virtually every individual school record. Emily is the best women's golfer we've had in our 11 years," Ulrich said.
"Her short game is phenomenal. She is very strong for her size but may not get to the green in regulation all the time.
"Her mental toughness and course management are a couple of her real strengths. She doesn't get rattled, is just steady all the time, real, real consistent."
In Lau's first competition this spring, she finished in fourth place at the Mary Hardin-Baylor Lady Crusader Spring Invitational in Temple, Texas. Lau shot 86-85--171 to finish eight strokes behind the leader.
Ulrich entered as an individual to enhance her chances for selection to the NCAA tournament.
She followed up with a third-place finish in a one-day, dual match against Pacific Lutheran, shooting 37-44--81 over the par-73 Oakwood Country Club course in Lakewood, Wash.
Lau has applied to several medical schools, including Hawaii, but is keeping her options open as far as the specific field in medicine to pursue.