April 20, 2004
By Elizabeth Schaeffer
When he decided to accept an athletic scholarship from Washington State University, Kevin Chen gave up the chance to join one of the most academically admired and athletically successful colleges in the Pac-10 - Stanford.
In choosing his college, Chen was more concerned about the quality of coaching and relationship that he could have with his golf team. He also had a strong desire to play under the 2002 Pac-10 coach of the year, WSU Head Men's Golf Coach Walt Williams.
'He's one of the best coaches I've met,' Chen said of Williams.
Of the WSU location, Chen states, 'I like the small community. It keeps you focused on your goals and your priorities...everyone is closely knit together.'
Chen grew up in sunny California and began playing golf with his father around the fourth grade. In California he could play on nicely manicured greens all year round.
Although his parents never pushed him to compete, Chen developed a competitive spirit through his personal drive and success with the game.
'[My father] didn't really push me at all, neither did my mom, it was more of me being self driven to do what I liked,' Chen said. 'Through junior high school, I knew I wanted to play competitive golf at the college level.'
Chen was very lucky to live in an area that sported one of the most aggressive high school golf teams, Monte Vista High School. While there, his team went undefeated two seasons in a row.
As a high school athlete, Chen also matched his athletic performance with outstanding grades and was named a Coast Section Scholar Athlete. He surpassed most high school standards which allowed him to graduate six months earlier than his fellow classmates.
Chen's talent did not go unnoticed by Williams.
'Coming out of high school he had some really low rounds so I knew that he had the ability to play at this level,' Williams said. 'He was a 4.0 student and came from a great family so I knew he would fit well at WSU.'
At that time, Chen had already planned to play golf for WSU, and decided to spend his six extra months practicing and improving his golf game in Florida at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in 2003.
After a busy summer in Florida, arriving at WSU couldn't have been more of a culture shock for Chen, but he was confidant that his decision was the correct one.
Despite having to work primarily indoors during a lot of the year at WSU, Chen agrees that golfers need to work out using weights as well as keep up on cardiovascular fitness.
'Golfers are athletes too!' Chen exclaims.
And adjusting to the weather was one thing Chen was forced to do.
'I had never seen snow before in my life!' Chen said.
However, Chen picked quite the location to adjust himself to. Aside from the weather, Pac-10 golf was a huge step up from his high school competitions.
'Coming to WSU I knew it was a great Pac-10 school, and a tough conference to play in,' Chen said. 'I was very excited about that.'
His high school team played about nine holes of golf per day. Now, his average golf tournaments are two days. Generally, the first day includes a rigorous 10 or 11 hour course of 36 holes, with the second day containing 18 holes.
In each tournament, WSU can compete against as many as 16 or more other college golf teams. It is not unusual for Chen to compete against tournament fields that reach nearly 100 competitors.
According to Chen, his main challenge so far is, 'Believing that I am good enough to play at a good level, focusing as well, picking out my target and executing the shot.'
'He is learning from his mistakes and playing wiser now,' Williams said of Chen's play. 'He is getting better and gaining more confidence with experience. He is going to get to the point where he will be able to shoot low scores more consistently.'
Despite his concerns, this season is starting out very well for Chen. So far, he has placed seventh in the Husky Invitational at the University of Washington, and also broke a school record with his 8-under 64 during the final round of the Sam Houston Golf Classic, March 15th.
'His (round of) 64 was phenomenal,' Williams said. 'It just shows the ability that Kevin has.'
Great camaraderie, great competition, great coaching---WSU has been everything Chen was hoping for, and he is thrilled that he chose to play golf for WSU.