COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY
2004 Punahou graduate Lindsay Hong has handled the challenge of succeeding at an Ivy League school.
Yale fits Hong to a tee
For the first time in her four-year collegiate career, Yale senior Lindsay Hong is finally spending spring break where she wants.
The '04 Punahou graduate returned home this week as the Bulldogs scheduled their first tournament of the spring season in Hawaii.
The Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational begins Tuesday at the Kaneohe Klipper Course. Yale always schedules its first tournament of the spring during the second week of spring break so that the team can get out of the cold and enjoy some time at the tournament's site.
» College: Yale
» Class: Senior
» High school: Punahou
» Best finish: First place in the Yale Intercollegiate
» Favorite class: Abnormal Psychology
» Favorite band: Dashboard Confessional
» Favorite food: Sushi
» Favorite golf course: Wailae Country Club
Recently, Yale has gone to Florida, but Hong was rewarded with a trip to Hawaii to start the final leg of her college career.
"I really wanted to play here," Hong said. "A lot of my friends are on the UH team, so it'll be good to see them."
The Bulldogs arrived on Monday, which was more than a week before the tournament begins. They have been busy getting in practice rounds at courses all across the state, but are also enjoying time sight seeing and going to the beach.
The team is staying in Kailua and is enjoying the wonderful weather compared to back in New Haven, Conn., where the school's campus is located. Temperatures are only in the mid to upper 40s and Tuesday marked the first time the team got to play a real round of golf since the end of the fall season.
"We haven't hit off of real grass until (Tuesday)," Hong said. "It's definitely nice to get back out there."
Hong, who is one of two seniors on the team, recently wrapped up the most successful season of her career in the fall. She won the Yale Intercollegiate on the final weekend in September and placed third at the Ross Invitational in North Carolina.
Her previous high finish at Yale was fourth in a tournament during her freshman season.
"She's really matured over the years and her course management is so much better," Yale coach Chawwadee Rompothong said. "I think she's poised to win many tournaments this year."
The biggest challenge most young golfers face in college generally isn't related to their swing or their putting stroke or any type of golf mechanics.
What challenges most young women is the ability to handle the transition to a college lifestyle off the course and balancing academics with athletics.
It was that much harder for Hong who not only went to an Ivy League school, but went to one more than 5,000 miles away from home.
"Getting adjusted to the Northeast was a real challenge her first year," Rompothong said. "She's had to adjust to the weather and school work and all the requirements expected of her."
Hong is majoring in biomedical engineering and will graduate in four years. She says the difficult thing about academics has more to do with the people there than the actual workload itself.
"The caliber of people here makes it hard," Hong said. "It's not competitive in a bad sense, but there are so many smart people who work really hard that make it really difficult."
The golf course has been Hong's sanctuary away from academics. Despite the success she has already had this year, the thought of turning pro is something that doesn't cross her mind often.
"That's just something that if it happens, it happens," Hong said. "I'm just having fun with it. Everyone on the team is really good friends and we're just enjoying our time right now."
Hong was busy playing tour guide as the team was taking a bus back to Kailua from practice at Turtle Bay. She had already taken the team out to dinner at some of her favorite local places, including L and L Drive Inn and Genki Sushi.
Over half the team is making its first trip to Hawaii, and it's the second for Rompothong, who isn't too motivated to try some of Hawaii's unique local grinds.
"I haven't tried anything too crazy or wild yet," she said laughing. "We might make this an annual thing so you never know."
For now, Rompothong is focused on getting her team acclimated to a different kind of setting in Hawaii. The golf courses here are much different from what they would typically see on the mainland.
The trade winds can confuse even the best golfers and the elements are also much different.
"The biggest challenge is the type of grass and not trusting what you see," Rompothong said. "Your course management is different and you have to change your mentality. It's more of a mental approach than anything else."
Hong said she has played the Kaneohe Klipper course, where the tournament is being held, once or twice in high school and doesn't expect to have a home-course advantage at all.
"I don't think that's going to make much of a difference," she said.
Next week's tournament is the first of three for Hong before closing her career at the Ivy League championships in late March.
She hasn't spent much time looking back on things, choosing instead to focus on the future and what lies ahead.
"I've enjoyed my time at Yale," Hong said. "But eventually I'm looking forward to moving back home."