U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Trio of Women’s Am Competitors Swapping Golf Bags for Book Bags
August 7, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn.
By Bill Fields
If Reena Sulkar offers advice about how to successfully juggle a busy, multi-faceted life, it would be wise to listen.
The 19-year-old from Barrington Hills, Ill., is competing in the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship this week at The Golf Club of Tennessee, but the game at which she excels is only a sliver of her present and figures to be a complementary part of her future.
“I think how I’ve found success in different areas is really being in the moment,” Sulkar said after posting a 2-over 73 in Monday’s first round of stroke play. “It’s about really giving everything to what I’m doing at that time. When I’m at an event like this, it’s all golf. But I’ve definitely learned a lot about time management.”
For Sulkar and several of other competitors vying for a national title, life is far from one-dimensional. Their focus is much broader than fairways and greens, with golf just a piece of a larger plot in which education is foremost.
Sulkar is part of a special program that allowed her to be granted early admittance into the University of Illinois Medical School. In part because she earned so many Advanced Placement credits in high school, Sulkar will complete her undergraduate degree at Illinois in two years. Following that, she plans to earn a Master of Business Administration before starting medical school.
“Academics has always been a priority in my life,” Sulkar said. “Knowledge is something I love, and I’m really interested in the sciences. I work part time now at a research lab at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, where a focus is on early detection of lung cancer. In the med school rotation, I’ll be interested to learn more about all the specialties and to find out where my passion lies exactly.”
Ysabel Tran, 21, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., a forensic science major at San Jose State University, where she plays on the women’s golf team, aspires to be a reconstructive plastic surgeon.
“There are a lot of steps to get there, but you just have to take one step at a time,” Tran said. “One step at a time, one hole at a time, one research paper at a time. Things like that. Just make sure I don’t get too cluttered. I always plan ahead and make sure I don’t procrastinate on anything.”
Like Sulkar, Tran has always had an interest in what she believes will be her career path.
“I am so in love with science and how everything works,” said Tran, who opened stroke play with a 2-under 69. “Physics and chemistry and biology. It’s so interesting to me. I can’t wait to get back to school.”
Tran was a competitive figure skater who once made it nationals. She left the ice in favor of golf because she knew it could help further her education through a scholarship.
“I thought I was going to be a pro skater, but I then I decided to play golf to help pay for college because I know my parents wouldn’t be able to afford that,” Tran said. “Some of the girls playing here this week are definitely going to go pro. I say put their heart and soul into it. For me, it’s always been med school. I’ve always wanted to go for that.”
According to Tran, attitude is everything in allowing her to pursue her dream. “Thinking on the bright side, being happy, smiling,” she said. “Planning a week ahead helps. I try not to overanalyze things. And lots of sleep helps.”
Rebecca Klongland, 22, of Stoughton, Wis., is gearing up for plenty of studying. The 2018 economics graduate from the University of Wisconsin starts law school at Marquette University on Aug. 20.
“I basically move to Milwaukee as soon as get back from here,” Klongland said. “I’ve been told it’s a lot of reading. Luckily, I love reading. Fingers crossed, it’ll be OK. I’m definitely preparing myself for some long hours in the library. There can’t be any procrastination.”
Klongland qualified for her first U.S. Women’s Amateur shortly before beginning her freshman season at Wisconsin four years ago. Her mindset then was much different.
“I was very much all golf, this is what I’m doing,” said Klongland. “As I’ve gotten a little older, I realized that’s not true. A bad shot suddenly isn’t quite so bad.”
The first golfer to win the Wisconsin State Women’s Amateur four consecutive years, Klongland is aware that her clubs aren’t going be used much in the near future.
“I’ll be taking a little break,” she said, “but I’m going to keep the [U.S. Women’s] Mid-Am in mind in a couple of years.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer who contributes frequently to USGA websites.