Driven: Competitive spirit separates Emily Chang from opposition


Chloe Ma

Senior Emily Chang stances up, preparing to swing at a golf ball at the Jackson Park Golf Course.

Colin Leslie, Reporter

This story was updated on Oct. 21, 2020, to clarify that the girls golf team were not withdrawn from regionals as a whole, but that instead each competitor withdrew for individual reasons.

In Emily Chang’s first golf tournament, she came in last place. She was 12 years old. 

“I was thinking for so long that I was so good,” Emily, now a senior, said. “Playing with these girls who were beating me by, like, 30 strokes, I was like ‘Whoa, OK, that’s what I want to do.”

Competitiveness caused Emily to take golf seriously, but it has not compromised her ability to be a good teammate, even as her senior season was unexpectedly cut short.

U-High golf coach Marco Fajardo said Emily’s competitiveness when golfing is obvious to those watching her.

“She’s super competitive, not just amongst her peers, but just amongst herself,” Coach Fajardo said. “She strives to achieve the most out of her abilities, and she feels that she can achieve more.”

Emily said her high expectations for herself can cause her to feel internal pressure when she golfs.

“If I don’t play well I feel like I’m kind of letting myself down because I know how good I could be,” Emily said. “I’m not going to step out onto that golf course and not give it my best for every shot on those 18 holes because you never win that way, you never feel good about yourself that way.”

“I’m not going to step out onto that golf course and not give it my best for every shot on those 18 holes because you never win that way, you never feel good about yourself that way.””

— Emily Chang

Emily is approachable and relaxed around teammates according to junior Aaron Kim, a member of the golf team.

“She’s definitely the leader of the team,” Aaron said. “She’s the best player by far, but she’s always, like, bubbly and talks to everyone.”

According to Coach Fajardo, watching Emily interact with her teammates and coaches gives no indication of how good of a golfer she is. He said she is very down-to-earth.

 “She brings a lot of great energy, a lot of positive attitude, great competitiveness and she is just the most ideal teammate you could have,” Coach Fajardo said.

Emily’s season was shortened this year, winning her only competition, the conference championship, before all four girls from the U-High team set to compete in regionals made individual decisions not to play. According to Emily, they were experiencing mild sickness, but she said they all tested negative for COVID-19.

“It’s definitely not the ending to my high school career that I was hoping for,” Emily said. “[The Lab golf team members] spend a lot of time together usually, but only seeing them once a week now because we only practice on Wednesdays as opposed to, you know, basically every day after school has been kind of tough. We don’t have the team bus rides listening to music or just talking and hanging out.”

Emily said there is nothing better than winning a golf tournament and holding the trophy over her head.

A couple of years after finishing last at her first local golf tournament, Emily won her first national tournament. Emily said, “That was the moment when I was like, ‘I love this,’ and this is something that I want to keep working towards forever, honestly.”