It was very emotional.
After winning my first college tournament in March of 2021, I just couldn’t help it.
In that moment, all I could think about was my dad.
My father means everything to me. He made so many sacrifices to give me the life I get to enjoy today. Without him, I would have never even picked up a golf club.
Winning a collegiate tournament has always been a dream of ours.
Now that I’ve accomplished this feat, I just wish he could be by my side and celebrate it with me.
Roughly two years ago, during the winter break of the 2019/20 season, my father came all the way from Malaysia to visit me in the United States.
We met up in California and got to spend some quality time together.
Unfortunately, the trip was overshadowed by some heartbreaking news. My dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer.
It’s hard to describe what went through my mind when told me. I mean, I was completely thrown off-guard. It’s not like you can prepare for news like this in the first place, I know. But still, it just hit me out of nowhere.
The news also meant I had to make a super difficult decision. Do I go back with him and my family to Malaysia and forego my spring semester, or do I stay in the United States and compete for Oakland?
Given the circumstances, I know that at first glance, this seems like a pretty easy call.
But you need to understand how much golf means to my father. Or, more specifically, how much my golf career means to my father.
You see, me playing in the US and in college has not just been my dream. No, it has always been ours. My dad dedicated so much time, energy, and money to giving me this opportunity—it’s far more than just a sport to us.
When I won my first state title in Malaysia, you should have seen my dad. He celebrated it more than I did, I think. He was just filled with pride and so happy for me. He even threw a party, making sure we will never forget this moment.
That’s who my dad was. My successes were his successes.
So, as you can imagine, the decision of what to do was far more complicated than it seems.
And after talking to my parents, teammates, and coaches, I decided to stay in the US. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, but we all felt like it was the right thing to do.
A few months later, our season came to an unexpected halt due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Obviously, we were all upset and heartbroken. But, in all honesty, I also felt a bit of relief.
I know, ‘relief’ is usually not a word people associate with the pandemic, but in my case, it meant I got to go home and spend some valuable time with my dad.
Being together for these last few weeks and months of his life was very rewarding. For both of us. No one can prepare you for such an experience but at least I had a chance to say goodbye before heading back to Oakland.
After my dad passed, it was tough to keep going.
He played such a critical role in my life, and particularly in my golf career, I questioned where to go from here. It has always been our dream, you know? And now, here I was—without him.
My teammates and Coach Gaudio did an amazing job of not only comforting me but allowing me to be myself. They supported me in so many different ways, and especially in times like these, I couldn’t have done it without them.
They also helped me realize that despite my dad being gone, he is still more present than ever. I know he is watching from above and next to me every step of the way.
Our dream is still very much alive. And after realizing that, I knew I owe it to the both of us to keep going.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Life hasn’t been easy since he left us.
But Oakland has done a phenomenal job of supporting me through it all. I know it sounds like a cliché when I say how special this place is. Granted, I probably would have said this about Oakland when I first joined the program as well.
But now, after going through this experience, I have reason to back it all up.
I couldn’t have done this without my teammates, coaches, and the wonderful staff here at Oakland.
When I held up that trophy in March and absorbed all of the love and congratulations, I knew that my dad wasn’t far away.
I’m sure he threw a party up there in heaven as well.
This is for us, dad! I love you!