An eloquent golf game and a desire to improve her command of the English language brought Carolin Chang to Santa Barbara for the 2015-16 school year. She was a welcome addition to the SBCC women’s golf team, winners of three state community college championship trophies.
“We have a hard time finding women who can shoot in the 70s,” Vaqueros coach Chuck Melendez said. Those were Chang’s credentials at the IMG Academy in Florida. “A guy there put her in contact with me,” Melendez said. “I invited her out. She visited and loved it.”
Although rules prevented him from putting her through a tryout, it was a no-brainer for Melendez to put Chang on the team. She is a native of Taiwan, where golf is a sporting passion (former world No. 1 Yani Tseng hails from that country).
Chang could hardly have done any better in her two seasons with the Vaqueros. She won the individual state championship a year ago and led Santa Barbara City College to its fourth team title. And last Monday, at the Morro Bay Golf Course, she repeated as champion by rallying from a four-stroke deficit in the final round.
Sierra College claimed the team title, while Chang dueled Sierra’s Nao Bando for individual honors. Both players finished with identical scores of 72-69–141. The tiebreaker was each player’s card over the last nine holes of the 36-hole tournament. Chang’s three-under-par 34 crowned her as the medalist.
It was a triumphant end to her SBCC career. “I was 10 shots better than last year,” said Chang, who posted a 151 on the same course in 2015. She had to do much better against Bando, the North Regional champion. Chang drew even on Monday with a par at No. 17, while the Sierra star bogeyed the hole.
The 18th hole was a bit of an adventure. Chang’s drive settled under a tree. Melendez said, “It was really foggy, and I told Carolin she better take a good look at her next shot.” Chang knew what to do. “I’d been under the tree before,” she said. “I am always behind this tree. I know it is 140 yards to the hole. That’s usually an eight-iron, but I used an easy six to hit a low draw.”
The approach shot rolled to the back edge of the green, from where Chang two-putted for a par that matched Bando’s and sealed her second title, as many as a two-year college athlete can win.
“Carolin is the best player I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some really good ones,” said Melendez, working his 17th year as both women’s and men’s golf coach at SBCC. “She’s a hard worker and has a great personality. If I had a daughter, I’d want one like her.”
Despite Chang’s efforts, the Vaqueros settled for second place after Sierra’s top foursome scored 295 in the final round. With Vanessa Watkins shooting a final-round 77, SBCC finished with a two-day total of 621, eight strokes behind Sierra. By outscoring the other six teams, SBCC boosted its season record to an extraordinary 99-1 in all tournaments.
Chang, the medalist in 18 events as a Vaquero, will leave with fluency in English and continue to play golf and study business at Cal State East Bay. She may eventually take a shot at the pro tour. “I built a lot of confidence here,” she said. “I was playing bad before I came to the U.S. I trust my mental game now. I learned not to worry if I’m behind or if the team is behind. It makes me more aggressive the second day.”
By Paul Wellman