Writing a book or two, learning five languages, and competing internationally in golf tournaments are all impressive in their own right. When combined, they just breach the surface of a long list of impressive feats from women’s golfer Rina Jung.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, the rising senior has been playing golf since she was six years old. Despite moving to Seattle and then to New York with her family, she continued playing the game and began to excel.
Her parents were willing to do whatever it took to support her golf career, so as Rina began competing on the international level and traveling to tournaments, they decided to relocate to Orlando, Florida.
“My parents decided to take me and my brother to Florida to play golf, and there were a lot more opportunities there than in New York,” Jung said.
It seems that a passion for golf runs in the family. Jung’s younger brother will be an incoming freshman for Penn men's golf next year.
Aided by support from their parents, the two played in Orlando where they benefited from months of sunshine that put a New York winter to shame. Soon after, Jung moved to Rolle, Switzerland, where she completed two years of boarding school at Le Rosey. Of all the places she has lived, it made one of the greatest impressions.
“I loved Switzerland. It was definitely my favorite," she said. "That school was very special for me because I met a lot of great people and some of my closest friends are from that school. So Switzerland holds a special place in my heart."
It was during this period of her life that Jung published two books.
“When I was younger I kept a journal while I was traveling, just for me to see all the places and to learn a lot of things. I would see different places and then write down whatever I learned or whatever I felt. It was actually my mom’s idea to then publish what I wrote in the journal as a book,” Jung said.
As a twice-published author, after two years of school in Switzerland, Jung moved back to New York for her last three years of high school, where she attended the Hackley School. At the conclusion of her junior career, Jung had competed in no shortage of impressive international competitions, traveling to them from all of the various different places she had lived.
Just during her three years at Hackley, she won the 2015 Junior Met PGA Championship. The year after, she won the 2016 Ping Canada Junior Match Play and was named the 2016 Junior Met PGA Player of the Year. It was during this time that Jung mostly worked on her game by herself on the weekends if she was not traveling to compete.
These years of individualized training made transitioning to Penn’s team environment difficult.
“[The transition] was hard. I was actually only part of a varsity team from sixth grade to eighth grade in Florida before I moved to Switzerland, and I remember it was very competitive," Jung said. "The first few years it was also very difficult to balance academics and the intense practice schedule."
Regardless, under the guidance of head coach Mark Anderson, Jung began to thrive.
“Her improvements in striking have been the most impressive of any athlete I’ve seen in my entire career,” said Anderson. “She’s just an incredibly hard worker. She’s invested countless hours in improving her game and it shows. Rina is one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever had.”
Over her first three years at Penn, Jung has managed to increase her driving distance by almost 60 yards, another large feat on her long list.
“I’m very ambitious. So if I want to get some place I’m going to work on it very hard. I got to Penn and I realized my driving distance was way shorter than a lot of the other players,” Jung said. “As a golfer, if your driving distance isn’t that far, it’s quite intimidating. Or at least I felt intimidated. So I worked on it a lot over the winter and during the spring my freshman year to get my driving distance up.”
It was hard-working upperclassmen like Rina and an incredibly strong batch of underclassmen that had propelled the women’s team to one of its strongest fall seasons of all time. Before this spring season was cancelled, the squad was poised to do great things.
“We were coming off basically the best fall we’ve ever had,” Anderson said.
The Red and Blue bookended their fall season with first-place finishes at two very competitive tournaments. In early September, the Quakers took the top spot at the Nittany Lion Invitational, hosted by Penn State in State College, Pa. The team beat out 11 other schools, with athletes breaking records in scores on a 54-hole course. A month later at Delaware’s Lady Blue Hen Invitational, the Red and Blue shattered records again. Over three rounds, the Red and Blue won first in a deep field of 11 teams, placing 29 strokes above the second-place team.
Anderson cited the tournament as one of Jung’s most standout college performances. While freshman Susan Xiao had a breakout weekend, breaking the program’s low round to par records and capturing an individual title, Jung was right there with her, finishing second in the field. She tied the ninth best 54-hole score in program history.
It’s no surprise that after a fall with such momentum, the cancellation of the spring season due to COVID-19 came as a huge blow to many golfers.
“It was terrible. The news hit us so quick," Jung said. "It was obviously a lot for the seniors that we had on our team because the team was a huge part of their lives and we had a big chance to do so well at Ivies this year. So for them to have that opportunity taken away was very sad."
While the status of their fall and spring seasons remain in the air, Jung, who will serve as a captain for the team next year, remains determined to continue improving her game, whatever the circumstances.
“Individually, I would like to get my scores down even more. I feel like I’m on a little bit of a roll right now, so if I could get my average down that would be great,” Jung said.
When asked what message she wanted to give to her underclassmen about this time, her response was short, sweet, and characteristic of an athlete known for her hard-working spirit.