For the second successive year, Darae Chung from Chilton St James School in Lower Hutt won the Supreme Girls Sports Award at the College Sport Wellington SPOTYS. The awards were held online in November 2021 and we caught up with Darae afterwards.
Darae Chung will spend next year overseas playing the sport she loves.
“I have graduated school one year early and I plan to spend all year playing amateur golf,” said the recently crowned two-time College Sport Wellington Girls Sportsperson of the Year.
Darae has just completed year 12 at Chilton St James School but will leave Lower Hutt and her home golf course Shandon for overseas to play as much competitive golf as she can throughout 2022. “I will look to play in the United States, Australia and South Korea.”
“There are a lot of tournaments that you can play within those countries, they all have a lot of good junior and amateur golf tournaments – you could probably play one every week.”
The general plan – renewed Covid-19 restrictions aside – is for her to head to Australia in January, on to the USA from April-September and then on to South Korea, the country of her heritage, for the rest of the year.
Darae has been playing elite level golf for several years and has played overseas previously, but not recently, having to miss several major tournaments overseas such as the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in Abu Dhabi that is being staged now in mid-November.
“I haven’t been able to travel for the past two years because of Covid, but I have been able to play some tournaments nationally like the New Zealand Strokeplay and on the Charles Tour [New Zealand-based professional tour].”
She also plays locally, for the Wellington inter-provincial team, and inter-club for Shandon every summer. “But I practice every day and play about four rounds a week at either Shandon, Boulcott or Royal Wellington.”
To date, Darae rates Gulf Harbour just north of Auckland as her favourite course.
“It’s a beautiful course with the best ocean views and it’s also really difficult and challenging, especially when the wind picks up.”
What about her most memorable round of golf?
“That’s probably at Millbrook when I shot a seven under 65 in my second round at the New Zealand age-group championships in 2019, and I went on to win.”
Is there a stand-out shot she’s played in a tournament or in competition?
“One great memory was when I played in the ANNIKA Foundation Tournament at Royal Wellington. On the 14th hole I drove the green, which was 270 metres, in front of Annika Sörenstam herself [72 career LPGA victories] and a lot of other coaches and people.”
Does she have a favourite club in her bag?
“No, I don’t have a favourite club, I love all of them. The reason for that is I think you need to play every club as good as the other!”
Who are the players she admires?
“I follow and admire quite a few players, but if I had to choose one it would be Annika Sörenstam, just for her influence on the game and the career she has had. But also for her mindset. She is goal-driven and has an ambition to keep improving every year, and I think that is an admirable trait to have.”
Darae’s coach is Matthew Lane, who won the New Zealand Open in 1998. She doesn’t have a caddy per se, her mum and dad can often be found doing that job.
Playing on the LPGA Tour is Darae’s goal. What will it take for her to reach that level to be able to tee it up with players like Annika and Lydia Ko?
“It is all about belief and balance.
“In order to be the best in the world you have to believe that you are better than the person next to you.
You also have to put in the hard work and keep wanting to get better. While you are practicing you have to constantly challenge yourself, test yourself, make yourself uncomfortable and ask for help, and keep on doing that.”
“Even if you get on the LPGA that is not the end goal; even if you win that is not the end goal, if you smash records that is still not the end. You have to keep trying to improve.”
But no amount of work will get you to the top if you don’t enjoy it – so that is the main thing!”
Last, what advice does two-time College Sport Wellington Girls Sportsperson of the Year have for young up and coming sportspeople?
“I feel like if anyone wanted to pursue a career in any sport the thing to do is to be driven, love it and go out and do it."
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