FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Brianna Do uses the word bittersweet frequently. Lately, she’s had good cause.
For Do, college golf is about to end. After two more rounds at the Legends Club, she will immediately shift her focus to earning an LPGA tour card the old-fashioned way. Do plans to hit the Symetra Tour circuit, and hit it hard. She has ground to make up: While she’s been traveling with the Bruins, three events have passed on the developmental tour’s 16-event schedule. She’ll debut at the Ladies Titan Tire Challenge on June 8-10 in Iowa, where she won her first AJGA tournament years ago.
“It’s exciting but scary at the same time,” she said of the next phase. “It’s like going to college. You don’t really know what to expect.”
Do’s ride at UCLA hasn’t been cushy. She has done her share of fighting for a spot on the traveling squad. After playing in only three events as a freshman, she traveled to every one as a sophomore. Do watched from the sidelines again for much of her junior spring, and wasn’t with the Bruins when they won last year’s national championship. The experience was bittersweet, and Do didn’t want to repeat it.
“It’s winding down, and I just want to leave with a good feeling,” Do said.
Through two rounds at the Legends Club, Do is Bruins’ low scorer. At 1-under 143, she’s hovering around the top 10 spots on the leaderboard. It’s a good feeling for Do, especially as the lone senior on the team. She’s rooming with freshman Erynne Lee this week, and offers what help she can. When Lee read Tuesday on Twitter that the day’s top score was 66, she got a little nervous. Do calmed her down.
“It’s kind of nice to be able to give some wisdom and insight,” said Do, whose sense of humor best comes through in her Twitter handle: @bricheesey.
Last summer, Do became the rare player to follow a spring of little college action with a USGA title. She won the the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links before returning this year to play in just her second NCAA Championship.
That’s where Do’s story gets bittersweet again, because she shouldn’t be the only Bruins senior here this week. She and classmate Stephanie Kono missed playing the NCAA Fall Preview in September because they were away at the second stage of LPGA Qualifying School. Both reached the final stage, but because of bad information from the LPGA, didn’t know they could stop there and still earn Symetra status. Do missed the 72-hole cut at final stage, but Kono finished T-9. To accept her card, Kono had to turn professional immediately.
The UCLA squad, perhaps one of the most closely knit teams in the college game, watched her leave. It left Do with big shoes to fill, but also an opportunity that she otherwise might not have had.
“We all want her to be back and help defend a national championship,” Do said of Kono. “At the same time, there were only six fighting for five instead of seven fighting for five. It’s a little less pressure, but still you have to work hard and try to get in the lineup because there’s still that sixth player.”
UCLA’s depth has a been a familiar theme for this season. The Bruins have won seven tournaments and finished runner-up three times. Their worst result was a fourth at the Pac-12 Championship.
In those 11 tournaments, which amounted to 177 individual rounds, only one round was in the 80s. Through the NCAA regionals, no player on the roster averages higher than 74.4.
That’s depth at its finest, which is why Do isn’t worried that UCLA hasn’t yet found the top of the NCAA leaderboard.
“We still have two more days,” she said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. That’s what coach has been telling us all week.”
Do isn’t one to focus too much on that stuff early in the week. She has a series of code words scrawled onto her golf glove to keep her focused. Head coach Carrie Forsyth had Do write the words “cartoon” and “Sasha,” the explanations for which Do keeps personal. Assistant coach Alicia Um Holmes is responsible for “yogiwa,” a Korean word that means “come here.” It reminds Do to stand closer to the ball.
The last, “lift the hoof,” came from a friend back home in Long Beach, Calif. Do explains that the phrase reminds her to be assertive and commit to her shots.
“If you go in to clean a horseshoe, then you have to be really assertive and you have to know what you want. Otherwise, the horse won’t let you take its foot and clean it,” she said.
Do knows what it’s like to fight for her livelihood, which is a skill that will come in handy when she ceases to be a Bruin. However in Do’s mind, that never will happen.
“It’s my last tournament as a Bruin,” she said, “but I’ll always still be a Bruin.”