By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
What had you accomplished at the age of 17?
For Oklahoma State University freshman golfer Julie Yang, she’s traveled the world, won a college golf tournament (by seven strokes) within her first semester in college and is now ranked in the top 50 by GolfWeek.com among women’s college golfers.
Again, she’s only 17. Oh, and the 17-year-old Seoul, South Korea, native is also fluent in English and Taiwanese.
She’s just the latest player to the Cowgirl golf program that has found success with international-born golfers playing in the United States. She highlights the first recruiting class for second-year women’s coach Alan Bratton and is the third international golfer on the roster.
“You just want good player, it doesn’t really matter where they’re from. Ultimately, the best case would be all of them are from Stillwater, but the best players in the country right now come from all over the world,” Bratton said. “You’re just looking for good fits, and fortunately for us we’ve got several international players, which most of the top teams do. So you try to recruit the world and sort your way through to the ones that will thrive in Stillwater and at Oklahoma State.”
While Bratton came in late in the recruiting trail for Yang, the Korean-born golfer admitted he and the OSU program already had a leg up. While touring the world for junior golf tournaments, she found herself playing in the American Junior Golf Association’s PING Invitational, which is hosted at Karsten Creek Golf Club — home of the Cowboy and Cowgirl golf programs.
“I was very interested in the OSU golf program with the history and about five or six years ago I came to Karsten Creek for a golf tournament and just thought it was spectacular,” said Yang, who was an AJGA All-American at the age of 12. “I’ve always had an interest in OSU and then fortunately coach Bratton had interest in me and my game. ... OSU has one of the best golf programs and the golf facilities can’t compare with any other college programs.”
Helping Yang with the move to Stillwater was a familiar face on the Cowgirl squad. Amy Ruengmateekhun, a native of Garland, Texas, who also is of Korean decent, is a junior at Oklahoma State after transferring from Southern Methodist University and has known Yang from competitions at the junior golf level growing up.
“I think it played a big part that she was here. I already loved Karsten Creek and the coaches, but it’s not easy, especially being a foreigner and having heard of people not being able to adapt to college, but Amy and I are very close,” said Yang, who began competing for the Cowgirls this semester after graduating high school early. “We’ve known each other for a long time and just knowing that she’s there made me feel a little more secure and really affected my decision to come here.”
For Ruengmateekhun, seeing Yang having early success — including a recent victory on her previous college course during the SMU Dallas Athletic Club Invitational — has been a happy sight.
“She’s really motivating. The way she practices and her goals kind of motivate me to be better, too,” Ruengmateekhun said. “With her winning on one of my old courses, I was really proud of her. I’m really glad the team won it, too, because it was really special for them to win in Dallas, which is where I’m from.”
Yang isn’t worried about the pressures of trying to repeat her performance in Dallas. For now, she’s just going about golf tournaments as if there weren’t any significance behind them — though that isn’t necessarily the case this weekend.
The No. 18 Cowgirls travel to Ames, Iowa, for the Big 12 Conference Championship, where they will likely be contenders for the trophy behind No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas Tech.
“The fact that I’m a freshman is an advantage for me because not a lot of people know me yet and it just takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Yang said. “There aren’t a lot of expectations, so I’ve felt really comfortable on the golf course — not really stressed about winning, but just doing my best and just having fun in my first season.”