His is an atypical rise.
“The coaches we’ve been going against,” Sargent said, “they’re all like, ‘Who is this guy? Where is he from?’”
Young golfers normally show up on the radar of college coaches through good play on the junior amateur circuit. For example, Ben James, UVA’s top player and the reigning National Freshman of the Year, was recruited by the Cavaliers – and a whole host of other programs – mostly because of a highly decorated career on that level, including four wins in his last six American Junior Golf Association events.
Chang didn’t have nearly the résumé. He barely had one at all.
While he’s been playing golf since he was 9 and shot his first even-par round at 13, Chang treated the sport as a hobby for a long time before making a serious commitment to the game about three years ago. He was back home in China then, taking an academic gap year before enrolling at UVA the following fall to pursue a degree in computer science.
“I talked to my dad,” Chang said. “Like, we had several long talks about what I want to do in the future. And we thought we should give pro golf a chance because I’m decent at golf, I have some talent in golf and I have some experience in golf. And I definitely enjoy playing, so why not give it a try and get a good degree as a backup?”
Chang soon explored all possibilities to put himself on the quickest path possible to the PGA Tour. This meant starting an email thread with Sargent to seek a spot on the varsity team.
Sargent, appreciative of the persistence, simply encouraged Chang to work on his game and eventually showed him how to register for various local amateur tournaments to help build a profile.