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Balance, Time Off Key to Song's Strong Year

May 11, 2005

By Simit Shah – For the last five months, every time Chan Song sat down at the desk in his dorm room, he stared a small card with “COMPARMENTALIZE” written in large letters.

“My new year’s resolution was to be able to compartmentalize things,” the Georgia Tech golfer explained. “Whatever happens off the golf course stays off the golf course, and then I should be able to just focus on what I need to accomplish and establish equilibrium in my life.”

The senior’s dedication to that resolution has paid big dividends on and off the golf course. Song is enjoying the best stretch of his collegiate career, finishing 11th or better in four tournaments this spring. That includes a career-best second place performance at the ACC Championship last month.

Off the course, Song continued his stellar work in the classroom, and he donned his cap and gown May 7 at the Georgia Dome to pick up his bachelor’s degree in Management.

“In anything, whether it’s golf, school or a job, there are going to be ups and downs,” he said. “This year, I just really feel comfortable on and off the golf course. I’m satisfied in the sense of my balance in my life.”

With his performance on the course this spring, Song became one of four Tech golfers that made the all-ACC team, earning that honor for the second straight year. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 2002 and has played in 46 of 47 tournaments during his career.

While success has been sporadic during his previous three seasons, Song credits improved conditioning and the time he took off from playing golf last summer as the keys to his impressive senior season.

During the summer, he spent most of his time caddying for his 19-year-old twin sisters, both of whom are on the professional women’s tour. Aree is the youngest regular on the LPGA tour, while Naree competes in the LPGA Futures Tour.

“I learned a lot,” said Song. “That has helped me this year, I think. It’s an intangible, but there were things that saw as a caddy that I wouldn’t have seen if I was playing.”

Coach Bruce Heppler noted that most collegiate golfers end up playing almost year-round beginning at age 12 or 13, and that they tend to experience burnout in their latter college years. Taking a break from competitive golf probably came at the perfect time for Song.

“That gave him a chance to see the other side of the deal with course management, and maybe that you need to listen sometimes,” said Heppler, who is in his 10th year at Tech. “I think he wanted (his sisters) to listen to him, so I think that’s helped him with his perspective and what he’s trying to do when he’s playing. That was a great learning experience for him.”

The next challenge for Song and the third-ranked Jackets is the NCAA East Regional, which begins Thursday in Nashville, Tenn., and then hopefully a berth in the NCAA Championship in early June in Maryland. The battle for the national title will take place at the same course where the team finished second at the Golfweek/Ping Preview in September.

“It’s really good that we have two seniors and three other guys that have played in at least one NCAA Championship,” said Song. “Nick (Thompson) and I have played in six combined, so we do have the experience. I don’t that’s the biggest factor though, it’s peaking at the right time.”

“Chan’s a big part of what we’re trying to do there,” added Heppler. “Roberto (Castro) and Nick have played extremely well, so when we’ve got three guys going like that, we have a good chance anytime we play. Having played at the course in the fall is an advantage, too.”

Song is now focusing his complete attention to the NCAA competition now that his schoolwork is complete. “It’s very, very important to me and my family,” he said of earning his degree in four years. “I came here to be a student-athlete, not just an athlete. I’m really, really proud of what I’ve done.”

“Chan has gone from being someone that wasn’t sure he could get through here to someone who’s never made a C in four years,” stated Heppler. “It’s been night and day in his four years. He now has advice for the younger guys about classes and how to study, where before he was scared to death about it.

“There were other Division I coaches that told him he wasn’t smart enough to go to school here, telling him he wouldn’t make it,” the coach continued. “Graduating may be the crowning moment of his career here. I think he knew that he could play here and be an All-American, but the academic side is something that he had doubts in his mind about. So for him, that might be the most satisfying part of his time here.”

With his college eligibility winding down, Song is preparing to take his game to the professional level. He has spent time consulting with former teammates Troy Matteson, Matt Weibring and Kris Mikkelsen, among others. He’ll make the leap soon, once several details fall into place.

In the meantime, he’s enjoying his final weeks as a member of Georgia Tech’s golf team and savoring the four years he’s spent in Atlanta.

“I’m definitely going to miss breakfast at Junior’s,” he said. “I’m going to miss just being around the team and living with them. Each and every one of the guys on the team has touched my life in one way or another. They’ve all shaped my character in some form.”

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