The Grass Is Greener

For Two Golfers, Transferring to Cal Has Been the Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship

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Emily Childs and Joanne Lee recently suffered separate but equally horrible break-ups.

In fact, Childs says, "It was like the worst break-up ever. It was really messy."

While the two most prominent additions to the No. 10 Cal women's golf team are not referring to romantic relationships, the result of their decisions to transfer -- Childs from Colorado and Lee from USC -- certainly resembled the ugliest form of love gone awry.

"They made me return all my clothes and pay for my golf clubs," says Lee. "I had to return everything."

Adds Childs: "My coach cried when I told her (I wanted to transfer). I wasn't allowed to practice or work out with the team. And that's not talking about how the coaches and the team talked about me."

Coach Nancy McDaniel and the Bears, however, benefited richly from both players' decisions and have formed what appear to be blossoming, healthy relationships.

"We were really ready to have them on board with the team," says McDaniel. "We knew that both would be a great fit here."

The connection between Childs and Lee extends beyond their current situation at Cal. Both golfers grew up in the Bay Area, competing for the Northern California Golf Association where, along with current Bears golfer Diane Kwon, they completed the highest-ranked trio of players in the area.

And each of them opted to return home for the remainder of their collegiate careers.

For Lee, the decision arose from dissatisfactions with the student body and the golf team at USC.

"On the campus in general, everyone had their own cliques from the start," she says. "It really felt like high school and I got sick of it. I wanted to grow up."

The team climate wasn't any better.

"The team was just a bunch of individuals playing together. There wasn't too much chemistry going on," says Lee. "We were all just playing against each other for the last (qualifying) spot. It wasn't too much fun being there. Even though the competition was good, it's not all I wanted."

That fact, when combined with teammates from Colombia and Venezuela who predominantly spoke Spanish, makes it easy to understand Lee's discomfort.

"I just didn't fit in well personally," she says.

Displeasure with the team and campus led Lee to Cal and McDaniel's program. An immensely talented golfer who has played in the U.S. Open on three occasions -- "You have to be top 150 in the world to even make it," says Childs -- Lee made an immediate impact.

She performs both in competition, most notably with a team-best finish at last month's Stanford Invitational, and at practice, where she is equally valuable.

"Joanne brought all of her notes over from USC," McDaniel says. "Sometimes I'll tell her to pull out one of her putting drills, and she'll always have one."

For Childs, the decision to transfer came more as a surprise and quickly turned ugly. As a freshman, she was the undisputed top golfer at Colorado after being named Big 12 golfer of the month twice and first-team conference selection.

The choice to leave, therefore, had less to do with discontentment with the program and more to do with the climate of the situation -- literally.

"It was hard to play golf in the snow," says Childs. "Most of the team was from Canada, and they're used to the snow and the winter, which means that they were used to not practicing all the time like I am. I was looking for a more serious golf program."

The switch to a more challenging program, however, required both sacrifice and courage from Childs.

"At Colorado, I was number one and it was pretty easy-I was in a comfortable spot sitting on top," she says. "But since the team wasn't as good, it didn't mean as much."

Before joining the Bears, however, Childs' situation at Colorado took a dramatic turn for the worse. After her coach refused to grant her a release, Childs was forced to turn to the Colorado athletic director to gain permission to transfer.

"It was a struggle, but that made me want to transfer even more, honestly," says Childs.

At Cal, all that has changed.

"Here, I have to fight (to be number one)," says Childs. "Playing with girls who are just as good if not better than you makes you work harder."

Her hard work has paid off. Childs finished in third place at the Ihlanfeldt Invitational in Washington in September, leading the Bears to their first team victory of the fall. Meanwhile, her work ethic and performance has inspired her teammates to improve as well.

"Emily brings great openness and skill to the team," says McDaniel. "She challenges her teammates just by how she hits the ball. She's a monster off the tee."

Possibly more important is the team chemistry that has been formed for both at Cal, which was absent at their previous schools.

McDaniel expects that chemistry to have long term benefits. Production on the course will reap rewards in the realm of recruiting, especially locally.

"There isn't a golfer in Northern California that doesn't know at least one of them (Childs, Lee or Kwon)," McDaniel says. "They really help us own our backyard in recruiting."

Hopes for the future don't detract from the positive situation that Cal finds itself in now. Each golfer's decision to transfer generated a team make-up that McDaniel appreciates.

"(Childs and Lee) helped form a great group of golfers," says McDaniel. "I'm not even going to think about them graduating."

Regardless, these golfers won't let this relationship end in a break-up.


Contact David Seawright at [email protected]

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