Vancouver Duo Of Michelle Liu And Vanessa Zhang Heading To Harvard

Michelle Liu (L) And Vanessa Zhang (R) Are Ivy League Bound - Image-Golf Canada/Harvard Athletic Comm. 

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

They have been longtime classmates, junior golf rivals and national debate team partners. Now Vanessa Zhang and Michelle Liu are going to be college teammates.

The two talented Vancouver teens are heading to Harvard University next fall to chase their golfing and academic dreams. Not necessarily in that order.

Yes, golf is important to both Liu and Zhang, who are in Grade 12 at Crofton House, a private school on Vancouver’s west side. But a big part of Harvard’s appeal are the opportunities the Ivy League institution offers on the academic side of things.

“When I visited Harvard I just really liked how the community of the campus felt,” says Zhang. “There were people hanging out on the lawn talking about politics, talking about their classes. That seemed pretty cool to me. I also liked the big-city feel compared to a place like Princeton which is a small college town.

“And I also do debates, so I was looking for a university that had really well-balanced extra-curriculars. A lot of the other universities, they might be really good at golf or really good at debate, but usually they are not good at both. But at Harvard both aspects are pretty evenly matched, so that was pretty cool as well.”

Liu also cites the campus vibe and Harvard’s strong academics as factors in her decision. “Obviously, it is an incredibly strong school academically and I think that provides a lot of special opportunities that will allow me to get the most out of my experience,” Liu says.

“I really liked the campus vibe at Harvard because with many other schools it’s either a small town where it’s just the college and the entire town is the college and campus, which I felt was a little too small-towny for me. And then on the opposite end are schools that are in the middle of the city and for me that’s a little too much going on.

Michelle Liu Announced Her Harvard Intentions On Instagram

“So Harvard and the Cambridge area was the perfect in-between for me. It’s pretty close to Boston, which means if you want to go bigger there’s a lot going on there, and if you want to go even bigger you can always hop on a train to New York.”

Liu and Zhang have been two of British Columbia’s young golfing stars the past few years. Liu made headlines in the summer of 2019 when as a 12-year-old she qualified to play in the Canadian Women’s Open. The next summer she won the 2020 B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship by seven shots.

Zhang has played especially well the past couple of years. This past fall in Brampton, Ont., she and teammates Anna Huang of Vancouver and Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto combined to win Canada’s first World Junior Girls Golf Championship. Both Zhang and Liu have been a part of Golf Canada’s national team program.

They also compete on another national team with Team Canada Debate. In Grade 10, Liu and Zhang partnered to win the Canadian championship for their age group. “We won the nationals together and from there you get invited to ICYD (International Competition for Young Debaters),” Lui says. “It’s a tournament that is hosted by Oxford and Cambridge, but this was during Covid so unfortunately we didn’t get to go in person. We did it online instead.”

Both think it’s cool that they are about to begin their university journey together. “We have been together since kindergarten,” Zhang says. “It is super cool. We are basically neighbours and have been classmates so long, so it is kind of nice to be able to know somebody when I go there.”

“Vanessa and I grew up at the same school,” Liu says. “But I think this will be the first time we have played together on the same (golf) team.”

It will be a Harvard team that will have a distinct Metro Vancouver flavour. They will join Surrey’s Bonnie Zhai, who is now in her freshman year with Harvard. The Crimson won their last event of the fall season and seem to have a solid foundation in place. “Building off how good the team already is, I think we’ll have a pretty good team,” Liu says.

Liu and Zhang are undecided about their academic majors. “I don’t have to declare until second year,” Liu says. “I am hoping to explore some different classes in my first year and then maybe see from there what piques my interest. I am thinking something in the social sciences.”

“I am still undecided,” says Zhang. “But I think my top three choices are economics, government and sociology.”