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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Golfer passes on Ivy League schools

Image used with permission from Jeffrey Kwak
Senior Jeffrey Kwak swings his driver in the Inland Empire Championship Aug. 28, 2022, the third day of his competition. Kwak tied for second place in this tournament with a score of seven under par across the three days he played in.

Boys golfer senior Jeffrey Kwak selected a path deviating from what the public may consider to be customary.

Last fall, Kwak said he received offers from Columbia University and Yale University to play on their men’s golf team.

While for many, the chance to graduate with an Ivy League degree would be the more conventional choice, the athlete said he opted to play for a smaller school, Santa Clara University [SCU], which is located in the Silicon Valley in Northern California. 

“I turned down Columbia and Yale because I wanted to play golf professionally,” Kwak said, who as of this week is ranked fifth in the state and 46th nationally based on the Junior Golf Board Rankings. “Going to an Ivy [League] school would be too hard to manage golf and studies, so I made the decision that I wanted to pursue my golfing career.”

Going to an Ivy League school would be too hard to manage golf and studies, so I made the decision that I wanted to pursue my golfing career.

— Jeffrey Kwak

Kwak was also among the first two to sign with the Broncos of SCU Nov. 9 during the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s [NCAA] early signing day period, joining a Division 1 program that finished fourth at the West Coast Conference Championship in the 2021-2022 season.

“We are so excited to have Jeffrey joining our Bronco Family,” Broncos head coach Andrew Larkin said in an online news release. “Jeffrey has become one of the best players in the country, most recently being selected as an American Junior Golf Association All-America. He is just scratching the surface with his potential, and we believe he could leave a major legacy during his time at Santa Clara.”

Kwak’s father, a former South Korean pro golfer who coaches many boys and girls Lancer golfers, was supportive of his son’s choice to play for the Broncos.

“I am definitely proud of him, and I believe he will be a good player if he continues to be diligent in college,” JJ Kwak said.

In his senior year, most students would want to spend their last months interacting with their peers on campus, whether it be chatting during passing periods, lunch or break or creating memories in their last year of highschool.

But like the decision he made last November, Kwak said he decided to switch to the school district’s iSierra online school at the start of the spring semester so he can focus on his golf game in individual tournaments as well as in Lancer matches.

“It definitely helped my golf game,” the golfer said. “I do miss the social life [of in-person school]; however, I don’t regret my decision moving online.” 

Kwak is among the five student-athletes that take online classes, athletic director Paul Jones said CIF rules do not restrict students from having to be enrolled in the school they are playing for. The only condition is that the athletes are enrolled in the school’s district online program. 

“We have a district agreement with iSierra,” Jones said. “So we have students in our district [that are] attending iSierra, and they still play for us here.”

The athletic director said the choice to go online is available for all students, not just athletes. 

“So it really depends on what your goals are and what works the best for you because there are some students that work better online,” Jones said. “There are some students who want to have the full high school experience and interact with their friends every day, [go to in-person] classes and all that.”

Kwak said online school has its challenges, which includes having to put in 25 hours of academic work a week.

“I study for upcoming quizzes and tests and at the same time take notes and finish homework,” Kwak said. “It’s the same amount of work as real school.” 

Although Kwak’s participation in matches for the boys’ golf team is limited because of his online studies, Lancer golf head coach Scott Enrico recognizes him as a significant contributor to their overall performance. 

“He helped our team reach the State Championships and because of that, we came in 3rd in state,” Enrico said. “We will miss his scores for sure [when he leaves for college].” 

Kwak said his biggest feat as a Lancer golfer was his D1 CIF individual win his sophomore year, beating two teammates – then-sophomores Eric Lee and Carson Kim – along with a Walnut Mustang Golf Tournament individual win this year at the California Country Club on April 24.

“I came into the event knowing that I was good enough to win it,” Kwak said. “I wanted to prove that I could be better than [Eric and Carson].”

Teammate sophomore Caleb Kim, said he respects Kwak not only as a player, but a person that he can look up to. 

“He is a role model,” Kim said. “[His] biggest strength is being a team player and helping the other teammates when they’re struggling.” 

In addition to Kim’s regards, freshman Jonathan Jeon remarked on Kwak’s role on the team and his decision to switch to online school.

“He’s the best on our team, he’s like the role model,” Jeon said. “When Jeffrey committed to [SCU], I was very surprised that he moved to online school, since not many athletes have done that before.” 

At Santa Clara, Kwak said he plans to major in economics while turning pro after his four years of college. 

“My [golf] coach wanted me to major in [economics], and I want to try being professional as long as I’m healthy,” he said. “I have no personal reasons [for majoring in economics].”

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Teo Jeong
Teo Jeong, Staff Reporter
Junior Teo Jeong joined The Accolade upon his friend's recommendation. As a staff reporter, Jeong hopes to write good articles for the print platform. Whenever he is not doing school work, he likes to exercise, cook and golf.
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