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2016 Olympics: USC's Tiffany Chan among Pac-12 heavy field in women's golf

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Anthony L. Solis/Pac-12 Conference

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Need another example of the Pac-12’s global reach?

Just take a look at the field for the women’s golf tournament, where 12 of the 60 competitors hail from the Conference of Champions, representing eight different countries.

Among all of the golfers that are taking part in the action, which continued on Friday with the third round, only three are amateurs. One of them is USC’s Tiffany Chan, who is representing her native Hong Kong in the first Olympic tournament since 1904.

“Bringing golf back to the Olympics is a tremendous thing that we should all be honored about,” Chan said. “It might not seem like a big event for the pros because they get the prize money for all the other events, but for me as an amateur it means a lot. Especially as a college student.”

She’s also been soaking up as much of the experience as possible. Earlier this week, as Great Britain’s Justin Rose was walking off the course with the gold medal around his neck, Chan was able to snap a quick picture with the men’s champ as she was finishing up a practice round.

“He was in a rush but he let me take a picture with him, which is awesome,” Chan said.

Through two rounds of action, Chan ranks tied for 47th. She shot an even par 71 on Wednesday, while in a group with former USC golfer and Brazilian Victoria Lovelady, before shooting a plus-4 on Thursday.

There’s a bunch of international flavor among the Pac-12 women in the field. The Pac-12 clubhouse leader through two rounds, Taiwan and USC’s Candie Kung, ranked tied for fifth with a score of minus-7. Behind her are a couple of Spaniards from Arizona State -- Azahara Munoz (t-13th, 5-under) and Carlota Ciganda (t-22nd, 3-under).

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Joining Chan as an amateur is Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela (t-22nd, 3-under), who is set to enroll at Stanford. In fact, the two up-and-comers played a practice round together before the main event. Other Pac-12 golfers include Alejandra Llaneza (Arizona, Mexico), Giulia Molinario (ASU, Italy), Miriam Nagl (ASU, Brazil), Anna Nordqvist (ASU, Sweden), Giulia Sergas (UCLA, Italy), and Mariajo Uribe (UCLA, Colombia).

Chan has been playing for Hong Kong since she was 11, but says it’s still an honor to represent her native land.

“It makes me feel proud of my country and proud of myself,” Chan said. “Of course, the Olympics is different and special. Golfing is individual, but to be playing for your country and people ask, and you have to say you’re from Hong Kong or Canada or the U.S. It's a different feeling. I keep telling myself this just a tournament in order to calm myself down before I tee off.”

Chan was raised in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, before seeking out a career in college golf. She originally planned to attend Arizona State but paperwork issues made her a non-qualifier. So she settled for the junior college circuit, winning back-to-back NJCAA Championships with Daytona State in 2014-15 before being lured to USC by the elite program, California weather, California lifestyle and an existing relationship with coach Andrea Gaston.

“Junior college was a good two years for me to prepare myself, practice and try to win more and get that winning feeling, build up that confidence,” Chan said. “Being in the Pac-12, playing all the top players also helped me to build a better portfolio. I feel like I've improved a lot in the last three years, no matter if I'm in junior college or in SC. I think I have put a lot of effort into it, and that's how I could make it to the Olympics.”

Chan always envisioned making the Olympics, but not so soon. Initially, only professionals were allowed to play in the tournament, but once Chan found out amateurs could qualify, she became a busy woman on the Asian tour circuit before earning a spot.

“I think I already reached my goal to be an Olympian,” Chan said. “I'm just trying to enjoy it and play the best that I can, one shot at a time.”

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