Reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Jackie Chulya CC’17 looks back with amusement at the disappointment she felt when her father announced that, as a gift for her 7th birthday, he would introduce her to golf. “I wanted an actual present, like a doll,” she recalls.
Chulya’s father, who had taken up golf recreationally as a graduate student in Cleveland, hoped to one day see his daughter on television playing the sport professionally. Through the years, as she honed her stroke under the searing Bangkok sun, Chulya made that dream her own. She now appears well-positioned to achieve it, following a standout junior season for the women’s golf team in 2015–16. After posting a scoring average of 74.95 — the second-best in Lions history in a single season — Chulya became just the second female Columbian to be voted Ivy League Player of the Year; she became so by a unanimous vote. In the process, she set single-season program records for most birdies made (62) and Par-4 scoring (4.16).
During the Fall 2016 season, Chulya, who shares the title of team captain with Camilla Vik CC’17, helped the Lions take first place in two of their four tournaments. She says she takes most pride, however, in having “stayed committed through the ups and downs” of her career, including a frustrating performance at the U.S. Girls’ Junior championships in 2012 that led her to consider quitting the sport. “I’m just glad I never gave up and tried to find ways to improve,” she says.
It’s the mental challenge that golf poses, Chulya adds, that drives her. “No matter how much you practice or how hard you work, it comes down to being able to make clutch putts and overcome your fears when you’re under pressure,” she says.
Born in Cleveland, Chulya was just a few months old when her parents relocated the family — which includes her older sister, Jessica, who played golf at UC Davis — back to their native Thailand. Accompanied by one of her parents, from the time she was 12 Chulya spent summers competing in golf tournaments in the United States. She began her Columbia career at Engineering, but transferred to the College following her sophomore year after discovering that she preferred Core classes over engineering classes.
By the time she started college, the rigors of golf had diminished Chulya’s aspirations to pursue the sport professionally. However, she says that her time at Columbia has rekindled that dream and in August she will attend the newly established qualifying school for the Symetra Tour, the official developmental tour for the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. Her goal is to qualify for the prestigious LPGA Tour. “[At Columbia] I started enjoying golf a lot more and I got better as well. That combination of being able to play well and enjoy it at the same time sparked my interest again in playing pro golf,” she says.
Nathalie Alonso CC’08, from Queens, is a freelance journalist and an editorial producer for LasMayores.com, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website.
A version of this article originally appeared in Columbia College Today.