Women’s Golf at Wake Forest University Has Been Taking Over
The question might be put this way – what are they putting in the Wheaties over at Wake Forest University? At least, that could be asked for the women’s golf team, which seems to be winning every accolade in sight, and winning them big. The university is also recruiting some pretty scary people, in golf terms. Past that, some strange personality elixir has given the women’s team the magical art of working really hard, taking every tournament with utter seriousness, and having more fun than a Saturday night barn dance at the same time.
Yes, Wake Forest is a very fine university. For those interested in academic statistics, they’ve run up a record of 15 Rhodes Scholars in the past few years, a handful of Marshall Scholars, 15 Trumans, and more than 90 Fulbrights. For a resident scholar or faculty member of the school, that is certainly a point of pride, but over in the golf department, they are doing pretty much the same thing.
This university isn’t new to championship golf. They’ve been in the mix for years, but everything has suddenly come together. In 2019, the Wake Forest team catapulted themselves into first place in the NCAA rankings, with a group that can go eight players deep without an apparent drop-off. In fact, the team’s underclassman phenomenon, Rachel Kuehn, didn’t even qualify to go for the season opener. Imagine leaving your star at home because she couldn’t qualify to go in competition with the rest of her team. Kuehn certainly qualified for next one, though. At the Annika Intercollegiate (yes, that Annika), she won the three-round individual competition by 14 strokes. Three rounds at minus 17 left players from Arkansas, Texas, and other great institutions in the dust.
When Kuehn or someone like her isn’t able to make it, the veteran leaders tend to step in and take care of business. Emilia Migliaccio and and Syun Li, better known as Syun “Swing” Li, are in charge of handling things in the often described “happy-go lucky” Kuehn’s absence. All together, they seem all but unstoppable. These things are not new for Rachel, either. She is the daughter of a former All-American female golfer from Wake Forest, who is enshrined in the university’s Hall of Fame. That was in the 80s, so the magic in the Wheaties has been going on for a long time.
Wouldn’t any university be happy with such a degree of firepower on the course? Shouldn’t the wealth be spread around a little? Apparently not. We are rapidly gaining recognition of a young woman who recently graduated from Wake Forest to join the LPGA Tour., Jennifer Kupcho. She, incidentally, became the first female golfer from anywhere to win a tournament at Augusta National. If we know our golf history, we know that Kupcho’s feat was something akin to being the first human to land on the moon and score an ace before leaving.
Wake Forest was founded by the Baptists way back in the 19th century. One might think they would be overly serious and quasi-monastic in their pursuit of perfection – wrong. They are a riot. Whenever someone’s not in mid-swing, these young women are laughing it up in an outrageous and effective show of good humor. They apparently enjoy each other’s company to the extreme, and don’t give themselves much of a chance to clamp up under the pressure.
As one more historical fact about Wake Forest and the women’s golf team, we should remember that Arnold Palmer attended the school as a “Demon Deacon.” I don’t know how much Palmer’s legendary career has to do with the sensational women’s golf being played, but it couldn’t hurt. It’s not uncommon for male pros to inspire female amateurs, or the other way around.
Whatever is going on these days in North Carolina, I don’t think the Wake Forest women even need the Wheaties. They have the people, and apparently the best recipe for playing their favorite game in a joyful state of mind. As weekenders, perhaps we should all try it.