Jaengkit isn’t just par for the course
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Charlotte Jaengkit is one of those people.
You know the type. The ones who can take a couple of piano lessons and start playing Beethoven. They learn how to cook, then glance at a recipe and bake a beautiful pie. They have rhythm and balance, determination and focus, smarts and skill. And they do it all with an unassuming “Who, me?” look that masks the guts of a burglar.
Put those qualities together on the golf course, and you get a machine that hits 250-yard drives right down the middle with regularity, rarely misses a green and manages the course well. You get a player who has won three tournaments this season and has been named Western Athletic Conference player of the week three times – after winning four times last year and leading the Antelopes to fifth place in NCAA Division II. You get consistency. You get uncommon shotmaking ability. You get Charlotte Jaengkit.
“My friends tell me I have a very boring golf game,” the soft-spoken star of the Grand Canyon University women’s golf team said, almost sounding apologetic.
So how did this happen? How did someone who never played high school golf, instead concentrating on her studies after coming to Lancaster, Calif., as an exchange student from Bangkok, Thailand, get discovered by Don Powers, GCU’s women’s coach. Like so many good things in life, it was a case of coincidence turning into opportunity.
Jaengkit, who had a fair amount of golf success as a teenager, including shooting 65 (still her career best) and winning a high-level tournament in Thailand, went to a College Golf Combine in Las Vegas, where junior golfers can go to try out and possibly earn a scholarship. It’s also a place for coaches to discover talent … talent like Charlotte Jaengkit.
“I just kind of ran into her,” Powers said. “I was there looking at somebody else, and I saw Charlotte hit a ball on the green and liked her swing. I just saw something special in her. I was surprised that she hadn’t played that much. It’s very rare to find that – most kids we see have grown up playing the game and have played in a lot of junior tournaments.”
Powers found out that Jaengkit had made the age 13-14 national team in Thailand even though she didn’t start playing until she was 10 and had played only once a week in high school – she was too polite to ask her caregiver in Lancaster to take her to the course more often. He liked what he saw first-hand, but he needed more information before he gave her a scholarship. So he talked with the caregiver.
“I said, ‘I’m curious about Charlotte, but I don’t have much to go on,’” he remembered. “She said, ‘If she puts her mind to something, she will make it happen. Charlotte is like a machine. When she tries to do something, she can repeat it over and over.’”
Hmmm, Powers thought. That might come in handy on the golf course. Sold.
But once she got to GCU and he got to observe her regularly on the practice range and the course, he marveled at how she carried herself. Powers and Assistant Coach Jana Mosesson rave about Jaengkit’s temperament as much as her ability.
“You never see her get angry or worked up,” Mosesson said. “She’s such a sweetheart – so soft, so kind.”
Powers noted that while many other players are easily distracted on the range, Jaengkit is all business. She takes that discipline to the course, where her preshot routine never varies – the practice swing, the unusual half-swing waggle. And what about when she actually does hit a bad shot?
“Most girls don’t understand the golf swing. If they hit a bad shot, they don’t know why. But Charlotte is kind of her own coach,” Powers said. “I usually don’t want to bother her on the course. One time I saw that she was off the green and I was going to say something about using her putter instead of chipping, and then I stopped myself. I figured she’ll know what to do.”
Jaengkit’s strength is her ball-striking ability. Mosesson marveled when Jaengkit had to play 20 holes one day and hit the green in regulation – with the first shot on a par 3, in two shots on a par 4 and in three on a par 5 – on the first 19. “It wasn’t until she was chipping on the 20th hole that I realized it,” Mosesson said. The current leader on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour hits the green in regulation an average of 14.4 holes per 18-hole round.
Powers still wants Jaengkit to improve her short game (chipping and putting) but acknowledges that it has gotten better along with her course management. She also has learned not to be overly aggressive on the green. “She used to hit it 9 or 10 feet past the hole all the time,” Powers said. “She’d usually make it coming back, but you aren’t going to make those every time.”
Jaengkit’s goal is to play on the LPGA tour, which would be a first for a player from GCU, and Powers and Mosesson both think she has the ability to make it. Powers had Jaengkit play a round recently with two people who have LPGA connections, and “they both agreed with me that she has what it takes,” he said.
Four of Jaengkit’s friends play on the tour, and she followed one of them, Pornanong Phatlum, when she was at the LPGA event in Phoenix in late March. So what’s next? First, there’s the Western Athletic Conference tournament April 25-27 at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, and then Jaengkit, a junior majoring in finance and economics, plans to play in the LPGA Qualifying School later this year. If she doesn’t make it then, she has her sights set on the 2015 Qualifying School, after she graduates.
But Charlotte is not about to lose sight of something else – her studies. She calls herself a “mathlete” because “I solve math problems.” Yep, she’s good at math, too. One of those people.
Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.