Chen Uses Golf As Stepping Stone To Finding Professional Dreams - More Than Golf
Born in the U.S. but raised in Taiwan, Doris Chen began playing golf at the age of 10 when her mom, a telecommunications executive, took up the game. Up until that point, Doris had played a host of sports, including dodgeball, basketball and track as part of her school curriculum. She’d also begun to dabble a bit in tennis, getting good enough for a local professional tennis player to approach her about seriously dedicating herself to the game. But once she had a club placed in her hand, it was all golf, all the time for her.
“I was drawn to golf because it was difficult and I wanted to master the game,” says the 2015 USC graduate. “That’s how it hooked me. I started entering tournaments when my mom saw a poster at a local driving range promoting junior events. I went to my first tournament thinking it was going to be like a fun picnic. I entered in the 8-10 age division. There were only three other girls competing and I remember shooting a 124, but I won!”
At that time, there were only a small number of junior golfers in Taiwan. To take off, the sport needed a national hero. And it found one in Yani Tseng.
“When I was 12, Yani was a superstar in Taiwan. She was three or four years older than me. I didn’t know many people in golf, but I’d heard of her.”
As she fell further in love with the game, Doris asked her parents if she could attend the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“When I asked them about attending IMG, I really had no idea what I was getting into and what my parents would be sacrificing. I didn’t really understand how big a change it would be going from Taiwan to the U.S. And playing college golf wasn’t really a goal; I saw going to IMG simply as a way for me to learn to play better golf while also getting a good education.”
In Taiwan, Doris would have to choose whether she wanted to pursue playing her best golf or getting the best education possible; doing both just wasn’t an option. And given that both her parents were the first in their respective families to attend college, it was important for her to get a university degree, too.
Moving to the other side of the world wasn’t an easy adjustment for young Doris. IMG was very different from her middle school experience in Taiwan, where uniforms were required and the teachers were very strict. Naturally shy, Doris also had to re-learn English while adjusting to what had become a foreign culture due to her many years in Taiwan. She struggled so much her first few months, her mom dropped everything and left the security of her job to come to the U.S. to help Doris. This selfless decision drove Doris to work even harder and eventually earn a scholarship.
While at IMG, Doris’s golf game continued to improve as she played in more and more AJGA events, including the ANNIKA Invitational. She remembers the ANNIKA Invitational as “special” and that it “felt like a major for juniors.”
“I loved watching Annika on TV and was stunned when I saw her for the first time in person. She was so nice and approachable and didn’t act like I ‘expected’ the best player in the world to act. I really appreciated Annika speaking with us and sharing tips like how she went through her pre-shot routine; not a lot of golfers like to give away their secrets!”
Despite her play steadily improving, Doris didn’t have a ton of scholarship offers. That all changed in a flash when the summer before her senior year she won the 2010 U.S. Girls Junior Championship at the Country Club of North Carolina.
Suddenly presented with many options, Doris wanted a school that offered nice weather and great academics. Her mentor and long-time golf coach, David Whelan (current coach of the Korda sisters), was instrumental in helping her decide to attend the University of Southern California. And what a decision it proved to be. She enjoyed an illustrious career as a Trojan, becoming a three-time All-American and winning NCAA titles in 2013 (team) and 2014 (individual).
Doris also enjoys fond memories of her play in the 2015 ANNIKA Intercollegiate, where she finished runner up.
“On the final hole of the tournament, the flag was on the far-right section of the green. Unfortunately, I pulled my 5-wood approach way left and had a 75-foot putt that broke hard from left to right. But I was totally in the zone and made it! My teammates all went crazy; it was so much fun. And what made it even more cool was that Annika was watching the entire time, too.”
With a degree in international relations in hand, Doris moved on to her next challenge – the Symetra Tour. But that step proved to be a “difficult journey” as injuries from college began to take a toll. After several years traversing the U.S. to play in Symetra events, she decided to move to Taiwan to play the Asian Tour in 2019. Despite playing well and having her best season to date, she was in physical discomfort the whole time. This led her to make the difficult decision to take a break from golf and reassess her plans for professional golf.
While Doris ponders her future, she’s had an opportunity to reflect on her days as a junior and what she might tell her younger self.
“I’d tell myself to be more confident in my abilities; to trust my work and my preparation.”
If Doris can combine good health with this renewed clarity of purpose, there’s no doubt she’ll be well on her way to realizing her professional dreams.