Bryana Nguyen has spent the greater part of the last year on the road, hopping from city to city chasing her dreams and a little white ball.
As the Columbia native can attest, the life of an aspiring professional golfer can be as unnerving as it is exhilarating.
Yet Nguyen has also learned to appreciate the journey.
With every missed cut, failed qualifier or over-par round during the 12 months since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she’s taken away something positive.
“You learn pretty quickly that there’s no substitute for experience, even from those tournaments where I haven’t played as well. The more high-pressure situations you can put yourself in, the better prepared you are going to be for the next time,” Nguyen said. “And this past month I am starting to finally see some results, real progress. Heading toward [LPGA Qualifying] School again in August, I feel like I’m in a completely different place from the previous years.”
The initial breakthrough this summer came in mid-June during the National Women’s Golf Association’s Flag City USA Classic in Ohio. Nguyen fired three straight under-par rounds to finish with a combined four-under total (212) to place alone in third place.
Then, the following week at the Michigan PGA Women’s Open, she kept the momentum going with another top-four finish that was highlighted by a final round score of 65 (-7).
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s all just finally starting to click. I spent most of January and February in Florida, playing in similar tournaments back-to-back-to-back, and I don’t think I shot under par once,” she said. “So to now have five of my last six tournament rounds under par … I’ve obviously come a long way these last few months.”
For as far as she’s come, though, Nguyen still hasn’t lost touch with her roots.
The 2014 Atholton graduate and four-time Howard County Player of the Year has fond memories of her earliest playing days in the First Tee program, honing her game on the greens at Fairway Hills and Hobbit’s Glen golf courses.
And it’s in that vein, with Nguyen moving ever closer to realizing her own golfing aspirations, that she is doing her best this summer to make sure the young players from her hometown have a chance to one day do the same.
On July 15 at Hobbit’s Glen, Nguyen is hosting a one-of-a-kind golf event that features both a scramble tournament and a college coach’s panel luncheon. She anticipates a fun day that hopefully can also provide information and guidance for some of the area’s up-and-coming junior golfers.
“I saw some of my friends had been putting on fundraiser tournaments and events at their home courses, and it got me thinking about trying to do something similar here in Columbia. But to go along with that, it was extremely important to me that whatever I put together helped junior golfers out in some way … because, you know, I was one not that long ago,” she said. “I eventually came up with the idea of bringing in these college coaches and providing a platform for them to speak to these young players that maybe one day want to play collegiate golf, but might not know how to even start the process.
“For me, when I was coming up, I had no clue what to do and it was basically all word of mouth. I literally showed up at colleges and introduced myself with my résumé. My hope is to give some of these younger kids and their parents a chance to get a little more direction.”
Nguyen, who served as a volunteer assistant coach at UNC this past year, utilized some of her golfing connections to get a quality mix of coaches on the panel.
North Carolina women’s golf head coach Jan Mann and assistant Kristen Simpson will both be in attendance, along with Towson men’s head coach Mike Larkin, Georgetown women’s head coach Kate Schanuel and Naval Academy women’s assistant Kelly Gerlach Hovland.
Several of those coaches have found recruiting success in the Howard County area the last few years. Towson’s current roster features Jackson Courtney (Marriotts Ridge) and Derek Gold (River Hill), while Jacqueline Cherry (Howard) plays for Navy’s women’s team.
As for the coaching panel, Nguyen says she has prepared some initial guiding questions to get things going. After that, she wants to open it up to question and answer so that the discussion best serves those in attendance.
“There are a lot of college playing opportunities out there, and I think simply knowing where to look and starting the process early can go a long way,” Nguyen said. “I feel like, who better than these local college coaches to talk about the best way to go about it?”
Interested individuals have the option to sign up for the entire day — tournament, lunch and panel — for $175 or just the lunch and panel for $75. Registration ends on July 7 and can be done via email firstname.lastname@example.org or over the phone (240-601-0958).
Proceeds from the event will help fund Nguyen’s continuing pursuits on the golf course, which include Stage I of the 2019 LPGA Qualifying Tournament in California in late August.
Last year, she missed the cut during Stage I, but she said it’s a new year and a new outlook.
“I’ve had a full year under my belt completely focused on golf,” she said. “I’m excited to go back out there and show how much I’ve improved.”