A tee-riffic choice: Junior Anton Ouyang verbally commits to UCLA Golf

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Graphic illustration by Sophie Au

Ouyang will play golf at UCLA in the fall of 2022.

Sophie Au

Looking through his family photo books, junior Anton Ouyang sees photos of him as a toddler, holding a golf club in his hands. He began golf as soon as he could walk, and his passion for the sport has not stopped since. His continued dedication has paid off, and he recently committed to play golf at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) after high school. Anton remembers first becoming interested in the sport when he was just a toddler. 

“Ever since I was little I’d follow [my dad] onto the golf course, ” Ouyang said. “I think one of the first memories I had was at a golf course in Monterey. There were some really steep hills, and I just loved grass, so I rolled around and everything.”

Ouyang recognized his passion for the sport during his first visit to a golf course, and he has played competitively for the past 11 years.

“I always loved competitive golf because I like being in the heat of the moment and having an opportunity on the last hole to win under pressure,” Ouyang said. 

Through competitive golf, he has had the opportunity to meet incredible golfers from all over the world and make new friends through golf competitions.

“Although we compete during tournaments, we are always very close to each other because we always want each other to play our best and hopefully come out on top,” Ouyang said.  “That’s the beauty of competition.” 

Even though some days are harder than others, he believes that it’s important to stay confident and keep working hard to improve.

Because golf is mostly an individual sport, Ouyang has flexibility in his practice schedules. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not busy. Besides perfecting swings and putts for hours on his own, he is also part of the Lynbrook golf team that plays matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, adding to his already-busy spring schedule. In summer, his schedule is jam-packed with tournaments which are around every two weeks. 

This past summer, he had back-to-back tournaments in Arizona and San Diego, and he also made trips to Southern California and Oregon. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes for most athletes, and Ouyang’s  typical schedule has shifted. Despite the challenge, he has found ways to continue practicing and perfecting his skills.

“In the beginning, I actually set up a golf net in my backyard,” Ouyang said. It was made of bedsheets that hung on a string, which is very effective for hitting golf balls into. “But then, as people started to go out more we drove to places further away [to play], so it’s easier to social distance.”

Ouyang’s dedication to golf has not gone unnoticed by many experienced golfers, coaches and friends in the community.

“Anton has a drive to practice that exceeds everyone else on the team,” said sophomore Steven Pan, one of Anton’s school golf teammates. “He always strives to do his best and sets his standards really high.” 

In addition, Pan adds that Anton has been a leader in the golf community, supporting all the golfers through their ups and downs.

After years of long practices and hours spent on the golf course, Anton has been recognized for his skill and passion for his sport by many college coaches. Following a long process of recruitment, Ouyang recently verbally committed to study and play golf at UCLA, beginning in the fall of 2022.

Ouyang began his recruitment process early in 2017. After winning the Junior World Golf championship that year, he was able to put himself on the map as a prospective college athlete. He then began reaching out to schools, filling out a questionnaire on his sports career and extensively communicating with college teams.

The pandemic has resulted in changes to the college recruitment process this year. For example, the NCAA established rules that prevented coaches from watching golfers play in-person, making decisions harder for colleges. In addition, funding for teams had been reduced due to cancelled competitions, making recruitment process slower. 

However, Ouyang had already begun the process much earlier, so limitations set because of the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect him as much as they did other athletes.

“The main thing is definitely just reaching out to the schools that you are interested in at a pretty young age,” Ouyang said, “Then continue to post good scores, get good results and get your junior golf ranking up to the point where you can be a Division I golfer.”

Ouyang is one of few lucky athletes who are recruited early on. 

“Not many golfers are able to be accepted as early as Anton was,” Pan said. “You need to be the top of the top in order to be recruited at such a young age.”

When seeking recruitment and reaching out to the schools, it’s common for athletes to consider many options. However, it was not such a difficult decision for Ouyang.

“First of all, I wanted to play in the PAC 12 Division,” Ouyang said. “More specifically, I wanted to stay in California, with good weather and somewhere I’m sort of familiar with.” 

Add to that UCLA’s beautiful campus, a new environment to enjoy college life and an already strong golf team, and it was clear that the school was perfect for Ouyang. The best part of getting recruited and committing to UCLA so early, he thinks, is the reduced pressure from worrying about college. 

“At first I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about school as much,’” Ouyang said. “It’s a lot less pressure, but I think being a Lynbrook student, everyone still wants that 4.0 GPA. I still study pretty hard for tests.”

For now, he will continue to play golf for Lynbrook and polish his golf technique as he finishes high school. When he attends UCLA, he is excited to be able to pursue his lifelong passion for his sport while receiving a top-level education. 

“People always say that college is the best four years of your life, and just being able to do that as a student athlete at a great school is a different experience,” Ouyang said. “I’m really excited for competing with the team and also getting to live the college life.”