A Morning on the Stanford Golf Driving Range with Lauren Sung

The freshman golf star on competing at the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and whether or not golf is a sport.

Lauren Sung perfects her swing during her daily golf practice. "The hardest part is getting the motivation to come out every day and practice for hours and hours until you get it right."

By Ashley Wang     Photos by Zoë Wong-VanHaren

November 9, 2018

Hawk-like laser-focus is something Lauren Sung has absolutely no shortage of when she's on the golf course. Or the driving range, for that matter, because she treats every seemingly-menial practice as an urgent opportunity of improvement. To Sung, it's all about repetition: she dedicates every single day of her week to perfecting her stroke, mastering her putting, and refining her chipping technique.

And this dedicated practice regimen has produced some rather successful results. In a breakthrough accomplishment back in August, Sung qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, the leading tournament in the country for female amateur golfers. She traveled all the way to Tennessee to compete there as one of the youngest players in the field, coming face-to-face with some of the biggest names in the golfing community.

Even with the increasing pressure that's notorious for coming hand-in-hand with success, Sung's not willing to compromise having fun. Sure, she's set on becoming the best in the world, but to Sung, the best part of golf will always be meeting and connecting with new people.

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EARLY INTRODUCTION

I started young — I  was 10 years old. My dad wanted me and my sisters to play golf because he enjoyed it too. We were doing other sports at the time: tennis, skiing, swimming, soccer. Playing other sports helped. Skiing helped build strength, which you need a lot of in golf.

.  .  .

AN ARSENAL OF TOOLS

When I have a good idea of what the club is doing during practice — how I'm controlling it and if I’m getting good contact — I’ll switch clubs. Each club does something different. Based on the type of club I use, the ball will go farther or have more spin.

.  .  .

IN THE ZONE

One time I spent eight hours on a course. It gets tiring staying focused for that long. You're focused on one shot and then you're walking to the next one and then you're trying to stay in the zone throughout the whole round. As a golfer I'm used to the mental pressure because I play every day. But at the end of the day you really just want to go to sleep.

.  .  .

POSITIVE MENTALITY

It gets frustrating sometimes when you're on the course and you're playing badly. I was playing pretty badly at CCS last weekend. I just kept bogeying and my putting wasn’t there. But you have to tell yourself that you aren’t going to give up and that you're just going to do better.

.  .  .

THE BIG LEAGUES

It didn't strike me that I qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur until a lot later. I was just so shocked. I was like, ‘this is happening. I'm actually going to Tennessee. I'm going to play real, collegiate players.’ Sure, I felt really intimidated, but I was just really excited to be there and get the experience of a championship.

.  .  .

WARM-UP RITUAL

During tournaments I usually want an hour and 30 minutes — almost two hours — to get ready and warm up for the round. It’s a long time, but it helps me get mentally prepared.

.  .  .

TECHNICAL TWEAKS

I have a coach in San Jose who looks at my swing and tells me some pointers, and then I'll go out and fix it. Mostly I’ve been working on ball placement with certain clubs.

.  .  .

"IS GOLF A SPORT?"

I usually don't say anything unless they say it to my face. In golf, you're out on your own. You're trying to shoot your best score, trying to shoot low, and you’re focusing the entire time. It’s hours when you're out there. And there’s so much pressure at tournaments. It has everything that makes a sport what it is. So I don’t get why people say it’s not.

.  .  .

IMPORTANCE OF REPETITION

The hardest part is getting the motivation to come out every day and practice for hours and hours until you get it right. But at the same time it’s so fun to be playing with other people — like my sisters and my Paly team — who are just as invested as you.

.  .  .

SISTERLY COMPETITION

My twin always tries to outdo me in everything. When I was winning ski races, she would try to win the next race or she'd try to get second or something like that. It keeps me on my toes.

.  .  .

LOOKING AHEAD

I want to get recruited for golf; I want to keep playing in college. I put a lot of time and effort into my golf game — I want to be the best. Obviously I’m just a freshman, but I still think about the future.

.  .  .

BUILDING COMMUNITY

My favorite part of golf is meeting new people at tournaments. I love how I get to connect with them over the sport.

.  .  .

BEHIND THE SHOT

It's not that you just go out and hit one shot and then you're done. You have to think about distances; how to get the ball there; how to get it close to there; how to score. Thinking is the hardest part about golf. I wish people knew that there’s so much more that goes into it than what you see on the outside.

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