UBC’s Una Chou Conquers Her Nerves And Wins PGA WORKS Championship

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

It was a day later and Una Chou was still thinking about the putt that won her the individual women’s title at the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship at the famed Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass.

“It still feels surreal,” said Chou, who is completing her third year as a member of the UBC Thunderbirds golf team. “I have been looking back at that putt I made on 18 and saying, ‘How did I make that putt?’ It was like a six-foot slider and I knew I needed to make it for the win. I just tried to trust my routine. I was thinking, 'if it goes in, great, if it doesn’t it’s fine.'”

It went in, of course, and Chou picked the ball out of the cup and looked up toward the heavens. “I just felt so relieved,” she said. “It was just like a big sigh of relief.”

That putt ended what was a stressful 24 hours for Chou. A second-round 69 — the low score of the tournament and the only sub-par round of the event — gave Chou a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the 54-hole championship.

“That second round we played at the Valley course,” she said. “It was a little bit easier than the Stadium course and I was just trying to play my best. I was thinking this is an easier course and everyone is going to shoot a better score, so I was surprised when I saw the scores at the end of the day. I was like, oh, I am actually leading. That’s when I got really nervous.”

Chou laughed when she acknowledged that she did not sleep particularly well that night. “I woke up so many times in the middle of the night thinking about the final round,” she said. “I kept telling myself to just enjoy it.” And she did, particularly when it was over. Chou and Sadanun Sitanonth of Eastern Kentucky University battled down the stretch and were tied as they stepped up to the 18th tee.

Chou split the fairway with her tee shot, while Sitanonth flared hers right and had to chip out back to the fairway. When Sitanonth missed her 10-foot putt for par, Chou knew the tournament was hers if she could make her six-footer. Shortly after that putt dropped, her phone began to light up with congratulatory messages from family and friends. “I got so many texts, so many messages on Instagram,” she said. “It’s really nice.”

She also got a celebratory green-side soaking from UBC teammates Jessica Ng and Emily Li and former T-Bird Sonja Tang, who now plays for the University of Oregon. “They poured water all over me,” Chou said. Chou, who finished the event at six-over par, is the second UBC player to win the PGA Works Championship. Richmond’s Ziggy Nathu won the men’s individual title in 2019.

Click HERE to see final scoring.

For its first 32 years, the tournament was known as the PGA Minority Collegiate Championship, but it was rebranded in 2019 as the PGA WORKS Championship. The tournament is a stroke-play event contested across six divisions: NCAA Men’s Division I, Men’s Division II, Men’s NAIA, an overall Women’s Division (team), Men’s Individual and Women’s Individual.

While many of the participating teams represent historically black colleges and universities, the individual competition is open to all minority men and women student-athletes playing collegiate golf at the Division I, Division II or NAIA levels.
Longtime UBC coach Chris Macdonald said the PGA of America deserves credit for funding the event.

“I think it’s incredible,” Macdonald said. “The PGA of America has a lot of money and it’s nice to see them looking to create more diversity in the game and supporting an event like this. The students were put up in a beautiful hotel at the course and are provided all their meals. They have had this event at some incredible places.”

Golf Channel provided live coverage of all three days of the event and once she got into contention Chou saw plenty of TV cameras. “It was definitely really nerve-wracking,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever played in an event that was nationally televised. I just tried to stay in the present and not let the cameras bother me.”

The famed par 3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass also brought plenty of butterflies. They put the flag in the back right corner,” Chou said. “And with the wind it was definitely one of the toughest holes I have played in my life. It is really nerve-wracking standing there with all the TV cameras and of course all that water.

“It was like a once-in-a-lifetime thing to play TPC Sawgrass because I don’t know if I will ever go back and play the golf course on my own. It was so nice and the tournament was so well organized.” Chou came to UBC from San Diego and is majoring in business. “She is really a high achiever,” Macdonald said. “She has become one of our top players and probably one of the top players in the history of our team.”

After the tournament, Chou, Ng and Li headed to TPC Deere Run in Silvas Ill., where they will join Macdonald and the the rest of the team at the NAIA National Championships, which go May 14-17. The T-Birds head into the tournament ranked No. 1.