The Family Guy
April 20, 2010
By Jake Stonich
SEATTLE -- For senior UW golfer Richard Lee the path to being one of the best college golfers in the nation has been anything but ordinary.
Committing to golf at an early age Lee traveled to the Philippines, leaving high school his sophomore year, for a two year working vacation to focus solely on golf. For Lee, making the PGA Tour is the ultimate goal and to make this dream a reality he had to commit himself to it. But the commitment did not come without remorse and hardship. The everyday grind of repetitive practice took its toll on Lee's psyche. He realized that 'golf was not everything' and that the normal life that passed him by in the two years living abroad called him back to the United States.
Coming back to the United States would not be as easy as it seemed though, and after deciding not to return to high school Lee took the GED exam and moved on to Bellevue Community College. After spending two years there he transferred to the University of Washington where he has made a dramatic impact on Husky golf, helping it to a top-five national ranking that has lasted this entire season and earning himself third-team PING All-American accolades. But in order for Lee to have such a huge impact on the Huskies' success he had to change his physical, as well as mental preparation for the game.
Lee stated that in the past he thought that 'consistent repetition and the grind' was the best way to improve his game. But after not attaining the level of play he wanted to after his trip to the Philippines, Lee had to re-evaluate his outlook on golf. Lee realized that quality and intensity should be stressed within practice.
'On the golf course you only get one shot,' Lee elaborated, and to simulate the 'real situation' of tournament play you have to generate pressure within practice. In order to accomplish this Lee stated, 'You have to simulate real-time practice,' make up games in your head that can generate the level of pressure that you feel on the course. This high intensity practice, along with previous tournament experiences, explains Lee's success on the golf course throughout his career.
As a student at the UW, Lee is majoring in Sociology and has one quarter until graduation. Though Lee is not a 4.0 student he believes that his hard work and discipline in golf and life have trickled down to his academics, allowing him to succeed and get the most out of being in school.
But there are more than two sides to Richard Lee beside the scholar and the golfer -- he also is a family man. Lee is married to his wife Christine, and has a daughter Israella. While putting his family first, Lee's commitment to golf has strained his life in a way in which not too many people can understand. Sometimes Lee would leave the house at 6:00 in the morning for a golf tournament and not return until 7:00 at night, when he would then have to study for school. While his family has been supportive in every aspect of his life, he would like to turn the tables more when he graduates.
'[I want to] focus more on family as well as golf,' said Lee. 'This experience [as a student-athlete] has helped me learn how to manage my time. I know my priorities and I know what I have to do. Overall it has been a great experience.'
'Being married has helped me get away from the distractions of being a college student,' continued Lee. 'Marriage has made me more stable.'
This stability derived from Lee's private life has helped him deal with the instability of golf. Having a wife and a daughter has allowed him to keep things in perspective.
'If things are going the wrong way I can always come home and see my daughter smile,' said Lee. 'Being married has made me a better, stronger person. I wouldn't change anything about who I am as a golfer or with my marriage.'
Lee, when asked if he could change anything in his life, stated that he would not have traveled to the Philippines. 'Living on my own was a great experience...[it] made me grow up. [As for] the golf aspect I did not get [the results] out of what I put into my practice.' He went on to say that he missed the 'normal' aspects of growing up but eventually stated that what he learned made 'it okay.'
Lee's connection with his wife as well as her immediate family has generated structure to missing aspects in his youth. His father was often travelling as he grew up, so Lee was naturally drawn to Christine's family.
'My wife and her family, they are like parents to me,' he explained. 'Her brothers are like my brothers. They filled in the gap that I needed to have -- what I was missing. They have been around for the good, the bad and the ugly.'
The structure of his family life and his wife gives Richard a calm and reasoned way to go about life and golf. Christine, once again, gets much of the credit for helping him in that aspect of his life.
'My wife is a very strong woman. She keeps me grounded and tells me when I am doing something wrong.'
His Christian faith also helps him remain grounded. Lee believes that golf is his calling and he is doing what he is meant to do.
'Why I [play] golf is because I am called to play golf, and this is what I am created to do. I personally know that I am suppose to make it [in golf] and that is where my confidence comes from. In general I believe that my faith keeps me grounded, sane, and centered. God has the most influence on my life because this is who I am, what I am created to do.'
Lee is a man who wears many hats as a student-athlete, a family man, and an inspiring story of perseverance. Many college athletes have professional aspirations but none can realize the level of maturity, responsibility, and self-confidence that Lee already possesses. As Marcus Garvey once said, 'If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.' This head start will lead Richard Lee on to bigger and better things in the future.