AUSTIN, Texas – Rose Huang left her home in Honolulu 34 days ago, and in that time has played competitive golf 18 days on the “mainland,” as she refers to the upper 48. The AJGA’s Under Armour/Jordan Spieth Championship is her last competitive event before she returns home on Aug. 15. The very next day, however, she flies to Kauai for the Hawaii Mixed Team Championship.
That one, she says, is just for fun.
One could argue that most of what Huang, a petite 17-year-old, does these days is just for fun. She eats a lot of peanut butter sandwiches – her guilty pleasure – and sometimes whole spoonfuls of peanut butter before bed. Huang also likes to paint, even though she’s dropped it from a possible career path to a hobby thanks to advice from her parents. Now she suspects she’ll study biology or food sciences.
“I’m taking AP studio art for a class,” Huang said of her upcoming senior year at the Iolani School. “I have a lot of assignments I still have don’t have done yet. I’m just going to stay home for the last week of break and paint and draw for 12 hours a day.”
Thankfully, golf is now back on Huang’s list of enjoyable things, but it took a trip to Ohio a year ago to make it that way. Huang was chosen to represent Hawaii at the Women’s Amateur State Team Championship in Kettering, Ohio, along with Aiko Leong and Aneka Seumanutafa.
“I finally shot in the 70s,” she said of that tournament, in which Hawaii finished T-10. “I finally got back to enjoying golf again.”
There was a time before that when Huang thought she might even give it up. In 2012, a sports medicine specialist discovered a severe meniscus tear in her knee that Huang thinks she might have sustained running cross country. After the surgery, Huang’s game suffered.
“2013 was evil,” she said of her golf game a year ago.
Huang began taking swing lessons from Justin Kuraoka at a GolfTEC facility in Honolulu, who helped her compare her swing to those of the game’s best ballstrikers. Huang’s biggest obstacle had been accuracy – she would sometimes lose as many as half a dozen balls in a round.
On Wednesday, she proudly reported that until the first round of the Under Armour/Jordan Spieth, she hadn’t lost a single ball in competition during this trip. That’s especially impressive considering the amount of golf she has played. Despite the lost balls (two on the same hole in the first round), rounds of 79-72 put Huang in a tie for 15th entering the final round at the University of Texas Golf Club.
So far this summer, Huang has made it to the second round of match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, finished T-11 at the Junior PGA Championship (the rare 72-hole junior event) and finally, was T-9 at the AJGA’s Goodman Networks Junior before arriving in Austin.
It’s been a good final summer of junior golf before Huang arrives next fall at BYU in Provo, Utah. It may seem a strange choice for a Hawaiian, but both of Huang’s parents attended BYU in Hawaii and it just seemed the right fit.
“I think I like the school not because of the golf, but because of the people there,” Huang said.
Already she thinks she’s found a kindred spirit in head coach Carrie Roberts.
“I love her,” Huang said. “She’s come to support me in so many of my tournaments.”
Huang moved from Bejing when she was 4 years old, and speaks Mandarin fluently. Her given name is Yangcongrong, but her preschool English teacher gave the entire class English names, and settled on Rose for her without much explanation. Huang’s given name, a combination of her mother and father’s name “has special meaning for my family.”
Fittingly, as Huang explains, it means everything will come out fine.