Freshman Anne Cheng was on the green of the 54th hole of the Ivy League Championships when her normal routine was altered by a stray bug that had wandered into her putting line. A crowd of almost a hundred players and spectators had gathered to watch the leader group play out the final hole of the Ancient Eight championships, and Cheng entered the final hole of play with a five-shot lead over the field.
Befitting of her calm and kind demeanor, instead of hitting or squishing the creature, Cheng gently nudged it out of harm’s way and went right back to work as if nothing had happened, putting out to seal the victory.
While you may never guess it from her outward behavior, this year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year has the killer instincts and skills on the course that have enabled her to gain the respect of her teammates and competitors.
“Her head is incredible,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “She’s unfazed by anything that’s going on around her—good shots or the occasional bad shot. Her game is built to do well and to do well consistently.”
Cheng came out of the gate solidly with a tied-for-fourth-place finish at the Princeton Invitational.
The freshman followed that up a few weeks later with her first collegiate victory at the Harvard Invitational, notching a two-round score of one-over 143.
While her 10th-place performance at the NCAA Division I Central Regional—her seventh top-10 finish in eight tournaments—may have been impressive, it was a five-stroke win at the Ivy League Championships that was the highlight of her season.
“I’m sure Anne was very excited to win, but she didn’t show it as much as we did,” sophomore teammate Christine Lin said. “She’s just very humble, and we all know that she was really happy inside, and we were definitely yelling and screaming at her when she won.”
But it’s not just the freshman’s ability with the club that sets Cheng apart from the crowd.
One moment, she is Anne Cheng, the Harvard student, studying Chinese before her final-round early morning tee time at regionals, and the next minute, she is Anne Cheng, the Crimson golf star, shooting a 74 in those last 18 holes to finish tied for 10th in the tournament.
The Torrance, Calif., native was also recently recognized for her attitude and support off the golf course when she was granted Harvard golf’s Warren Smith Sportsmanship Award.
“As soon as her own shot is over, she can let it go, and in those moments, she tends to ask how everyone else is doing,” Rhoads said. “Yes, she was excited to do well individually, but again, her thoughts always go back to the team and to what’s best for it.”
—Staff writer Caleb Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.