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Senior golfer Susan Xiao (Photo from Penn Athletics).

Senior golfer Susan Xiao has had a lot of change in her life, moving from China to Canada to Florida to Penn, but one thing has held constant through it all: golf. 

Her relationship with the sport began at five years old, when her father dropped her off with a coach at the driving range while he played a round to conduct business. The coach at the range told Xiao’s parents that she had a lot of talent and should play in the future, which she did. 

Her competitive career started around 12, but it didn't stop there. She took golf with her to Surrey, B.C., and then again to Florida where she played at Montverde Academy, a high school where nearly all aspects of her life were geared towards her golf career. 

“We go to school in the morning and then we have a whole afternoon for practice, every single day throughout the week,” she said. This schedule was a strong factor in why she switched schools for her senior year, as it helped ease her into life as a student-athlete at Penn. 

That being said, she admits it was still a big shock, as the academic aspect of Penn was much more rigorous than expected, coupled with the fact that the golf season began as soon as she arrived — leaving little room to adjust to her new life in Philadelphia. 

Even though the transition had its challenges, Xiao said that “My team was always there for me when I felt overwhelmed.” When discussing this year’s team in particular, she said that she loves the dynamic they share and that the teammates are all just a big group of friends, without the senior superiority complex that can be found in other sports. 

Her freshman fall went over well, despite the more typical growing pains that come during your first year in college. She was in the lineup for all four tournaments, and even went on to set a program record for low round with a 66 at the Delaware’s Lady Blue Hen Invitational. However, her momentum was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively ending her first season.

“It was super sad for me, especially because the pandemic happened in my freshman spring, so I really only had the fall semester of college golf before the pandemic happened," she said. "We had expectations during the spring semester that we were going to perform well, but the pandemic cut the season short, and we didn’t have the opportunity to play." 

Her freshman and sophomore seasons were thwarted by the pandemic and part of her junior season was inhibited by an injury, so senior year became her last opportunity to play a full season. Her main goal this year was to have fun and enjoy competitive golf for the last time, saying that “it’s more important than how you perform,” though she does believe that the two go hand-in-hand. 

Last fall, Xiao again competed in four tournaments and averaged 76.1 strokes per round. Perhaps the highlight of her season came during the Princeton Invitational, where Xiao shot a one-under-par 70 in the first round. This spring, a recent five-over-par performance at the Harvard Invitational comes just in time for Ivy League Championships, which are set to begin Friday. Though the women’s golf team’s performance has been up and down throughout the year, Xiao says it’s the tournament that she looks forward to most. 

“I’m super excited and it’s going to be a bittersweet tournament because it’s our last tournament, and they usually do a senior sendoff at the end, so that’s really sentimental,” she concluded.

Though her time at Penn is coming to a close and her collegiate golf career as well, golf will always be a part of her life, even if it’s just recreationally.