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September 17, 2008 > Fremont golfer tees off in China

Fremont golfer tees off in China

By Justine Yan
Photos By Courtesy of Bonnie Hu and Yi Long

In early June, 16 year-old Bonnie Hu was notified that she had been selected by the United States Golf Association (USGA), along with 7 other junior golfers aged 13 to 18 from California, to represent the United States in the first ever US-China Golf Championship. Conducted by a number of golf organizations including the USGA and the China Golf Association less than a week before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympic Games, the goal was to establish a cultural exchange between young golfers who share a love and talent for the game.

Held in Langfang City, China on July 23-25, the competition was preceded by two days of informal matches with the organizers and supporters of the event, and two more days were set aside for sightseeing afterwards.

When the family was notified of Bonnie's selection, they were surprised and excited, remembers her mother, Deborah Dai. Bonnie had played well in recent tournaments, such as the local qualifier for the US Women's Open in Half Moon Bay, so they were all delighted that Bonnie was "getting some attention."

Bonnie began to play golf just four years ago while in Hopkins Junior High. According to Golfweek Rankings, she is currently placed 77th in the nation. Even this summer, she has improved a lot, said Dai. "She came up from way below."

However, there wasn't much time to celebrate; Bonnie had a hectic summer schedule ahead of her.

"We were planning on going to China anyway, but [because of] her busy schedule during the summer, we had to cancel our tickets..." said Dai. Fortunately for Bonnie, the USGA provided an all-expense-paid trip, which would allow her not only to play golf, but also to visit China once again.

Because Bonnie had never traveled without her family prior to the championship, she learned to be independent through this trip, says Dai. The family had visited China many times in the past, and Bonnie, capable of reading and speaking Chinese, was glad to act as an informal translator for her teammates, teaching them how to make basic Chinese conversation throughout the week.

"She felt confident," said Dai. "That was a great experience for her. She's sixteen now, so she's getting there,"

But Bonnie wasn't entirely confident from the very beginning. In fact, she admitted that, at first, she was a bit intimidated by her fellow teammates.

"I was a little worried that I'd make the team lose because I knew everyone was really, really good," she said. One of the girls on the team will be attending Stanford this year, and a few other players were preparing to enter schools with top-notch golf teams as well.

Still, Bonnie bonded well with her teammates while working hard to play her best. Many of the Chinese team members were younger than 16, and Bonnie and her teammates would occasionally "hang out" with the other golfers, playing basketball, badminton, and bowling during their free time after the day's matches had ended.

The final score was 14-2, with the US team winning the most matches. However, Bonnie doesn't dwell very much on the outcome.

"Well, we wanted to win, but it wasn't really a competition," she said. "We called it a friendship competition."

After the tournament had come to a close, the US team visited the Great Wall, drove to the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, and went shopping on a pedestrian-only street. When it was time to say goodbye, they exchanged phone numbers, and planned to keep in contact.

"It was like part vacation and part competition," Bonnie said.

Bonnie, a junior at Mission San Jose High School, is now back on her school's golf team and has a busy schedule to manage. At first, Dai hesitated to let Bonnie join the team, concerned that AP classes, standardized tests, and other junior-year tasks would be too much to balance. But Dai also trusts her daughter to "handle everything" and work hard.

"In her mind, she's ... actually a rookie," she said.

Every morning and afternoon, before and after school, Bonnie practices individually and with her teammates. When people ask about her memorable summer, she simply replies, "I wish it lasted longer."

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