The women’s golf program at Clemson University is still taking shape, and it gained some Aiken County flavor Thursday afternoon, with the addition of North Augusta High School’s Jessica Hoang.
She signed the paperwork in the school’s auditorium, with an audience of friends, family members and other well-wishers, clearing the way to become a member of the Tigers’ first-ever women’s golf team.
Craig Gilstrap, one of Hoang’s high school coaches, pointed out that she made North Augusta’s golf team as an eighth-grader and was among the top four players.
Hoang played for the Yellow Jackets through 10th grade, competing as a member of the boys’ team. As a junior, she opted to use the spring to compete in tournaments as an individual.
The golf connection goes back to around age 9, she said. “My dad used to take my brother out for a while, and I just tagged along. The game just kind of grew on me.”
Her brother, Dustin, is now a senior at the University of South Carolina, graduating in December with a degree in business finance. He was willing, however, to don orange and purple to celebrate his sister’s achievement.
Hoang said her Clemson connection arose by way of an unofficial campus visit.
“I just really liked the feel of the campus area, the education, the golf facility and, of course, the coach and the team,” she said.
Her plans at Clemson are to focus on health-service administration for hospitals.
“I took anatomy last year and I really liked it,” she said. “I’m not sure if I want to go into medicine, but I know I want to go into the hospital area.”
Gilstrap pointed out that the Hoang family lives on the edge of The River Golf Club.
“She’s there all the time practicing, and even before she tried out of the golf team, when we were there practicing, we’d see her out there practicing,” Gilstrap said.
He described her as extremely self-motivated, leading to success in golf and academics alike. “She’s got a lot of want-to in her.”
Another of Hoang’s future teammates is also from the CSRA: Strom Thurmond’s McKenzie Talbert, who signed Wednesdaay. The other newcomers are Ashlan Ramsey, of Milledgeville, Ga.; and Sloan Shanahan of Suwanee, Ga. they are to join Lauren Salazar and Taylor Ramsey, who are both already enrolled at Clemson. Play is to begin in the fall of 2013.
Hoang, 17, said her short game is one of her strong points. “I’ve been working really hard on it, and I’m working really hard on my iron shots, to get those on target.”