2016 Class Acts

In Golf, as in Life

Business student Connie Zhou finds her focus


Golf, the poets say, is a lot like life, except more complicated.

And no one knows that better than Portland, Oregon, native Connie Zhou, who will earn a degree in marketing from Olin Business School at the 2016 Commencement, with minors in psychology and the business of sports.

Among the highlights of her four-year undergraduate career are an appearance in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” feature as a sophomore; helping her team to a third-place overall finish in the NCAA Division III championship in 2015; two first team All-America honors in 2014 and ’15; and internships with the PGA Tour and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, where she helped welcome Steph Curry and teammates at the airport after they won the NBA title.

It’s all been pretty easy, right? Not so fast. Zhou also has seen her fair share of challenges in the classroom and on the fairway; and if you know anything about golf, it’s how you handle the peaks and valleys that teach you the most.

“This year has been a challenge for her,” said her coach, Ellen Port. “She’s had three great years but her numbers have dropped off her senior year, which can be frustrating. That’s a life lesson she has handled quite well. If you play any sport long enough, there are going to be peaks and valleys. She’s remained working hard and positive.

“She’s the complete package,” Port said. “A great golfer, teammate and person.”

It’s what Zhou has learned as a student athlete at a Division III university — being a team captain, taking tests in hotel rooms on the road, juggling matches with classes and then focusing on golf when it’s time to focus on golf; all these things will help in her next steps in life.

“A lot of it is prioritizing and planning your time well,” Zhou said. “As for golf, sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself, but then I just remember to step back and keep everything in perspective. That’s why I’m really happy I came to WashU. I’ve had such a focus on golf practically my entire life, but here I have other things that I’m involved in.”

It’s that focus that will carry her.

“When you’re in a tournament you don’t want to be thinking about the technical things,” Zhou said. “You want to just be focused on the present and on scoring. It’s more about feel.

“I really have to zone in and distract myself by not thinking and planning. So many things can happen in golf — one wrong thought can really mess with you.”

But one right thought can get you places you never thought possible. Zhou’s goal after WashU is a career in sports marketing. Applying for an internship at Portland-area marketing firm Wieden+Kennedy — a firm known for its most famous client, Nike — she was asked to send a video introducing herself.

Thinking outside the box, the Olin business major asked a friend majoring in film and media studies to help. The result was a 30-second introductory video with animated pasta.

Pasta? Just what you’d expect from an All-American golfer.

Zhou, low-key, even tempered, simply smiles.


by Leslie Gibson McCarthy


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