by Mary Helen Darah

Beka Yang

“I started with my dad when I was 3,” recalled Beka Yang, a fifth-grader at Highland Elementary School who recently qualified for and participated in the national Drive, Chip & Putt contest. The competition was founded in 2013 by the PGA of America, the Masters Tournament, and the United States Golf Association. The junior golf tournament is a free contest that focuses on golf’s fundamental skills. Yang advanced by competing in sub-regional and regional qualifiers. The final competition was held at Augusta National Golf Club where eighty finalists, 40 girls and 40 boys, competed.
Yang remembers the first time she picked up a club. “My dad challenged me to hit the ball out of the yard and over the fence,” she stated. “Once I got past it, he took me to the range. We then went to the golf course and used his clubs. They were way too long so he bought me my own clubs. My first clubs were a pink Barbie set from Walmart.”
Before moving to Sylvania, the Yang’s lived in Tennessee where the young golfer got her start. “They do a great job at the Tennessee Golf House and what is called The Little Course,” said Yang’s father and biggest fan, Theng Houa Yang. “The Vanderbilt Legends private course was right next door. Beka was in regular group lessons there but they were moving very slow. The instructor suggested private lessons. She took off from there. Her coach suggested the Drive, Chip & Putt. We went to one and registered her three years ago at the age of 7. Her very first year she made it to regional competition.”
The following year, the family moved to Sylvania. Previously, their focus was training for the Drive, Chip & Putt, but last year they completely changed their focus. “We changed the way she was trained,” said Mr. Yang. “We didn’t know the area. Some friends told us to check out Toledo Junior Golf. She was young and they weren’t sure if they would take her. She was only 9 at the time. She took second place in the 10-12 age group and got into Toledo Junior Golf. Then we learned about U.S. Kids Golf World championship. They are known for their youth program. The closest place for Beka to play is U.S Kids in southeast Michigan. In the spring she tied for first place in that league.”
Beka placed 7th, the day before the Masters week commenced, in the Drive, Chip & Putt contest in the 10-11 girls age group. “I got to see Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods,” she said. “The whole experience was amazing.” Her mom, Gaona Yang, believes the experience was incredible and would like to promote the competition. “The contest is free, and you get to experience so many amazing things,” said Mrs. Yang. “We got to go to places where only members and players can go such as going down Magnolia Lane. Every kid who loves golf should experience it. We are begging her to train so we can go again next year.”
The family is thankful for the support of the local golf and Sylvania community. “Everyone has been so supportive,” stated Mrs. Yang. “The parents and grandparents of the other girl golfers cheer her on. She even got to meet the mayor of Sylvania. They gave her a great send off. Her Dare Officer has also been a huge support. Becca is so shy. Half the people in her class didn’t know she golfed. The Officer has helped her get recognized by other kids. He has been bragging that he already has her autograph. We want to thank the Sylvania community for being so kind and encouraging her.”
Beka will not be taking a break after the excitement of Drive, Chip & Putt. She recently qualified for the U.S. Kids Golf World championship held at Pinehurst in North Carolina. Beka will compete against 125 kids from all over the world. “One great thing about U.S. Kids Golf is that Beka gets to play with kids her same age,” said Mr. Yang. “With the Toledo Juniors she plays against high school kids and we are not allowed to help her. In U.S. Kids I am her caddy and can give her support.”
For the matriarch of the family, finding balance is of the utmost importance. “We learned to balance life and golf,” stated Mrs. Yang. When Beka started golfing, they reeled me in. Now I’m not home to cook or clean but we are all together. Even though I don’t golf I love watching her.”
Beka, who trains daily, will play in approximately 40 tournaments annually. She trains every day, but the family puts school first. “In the future I want to be an LPGA player,” stated the young golfer. “I love going to the Marathon Classic. Maybe you will be watching me at Highland Meadows someday.”