It’s safe to say when it comes to brainpower, Albane Valenzuela and her caddie Ziyi “Emily” Wang are the cream of the crop this week at Lake Merced Golf Club.
“I have my best friend on the bag, college teammate, roommates,” said Valenzuela, who shot a 4-under 68 in the first round of the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. “It’s just really fun to have her on the bag, and we just had fun.
“I played some good golf. Missed some shots out there but I knew on this golf course and the conditions we were going to miss shots. I think I handled myself really well, just super patient.”
Wang graduated yesterday with a Master’s in international policy from Stanford University and her academic journey is just picking up steam. The Rhodes Scholar is soon headed to Oxford to start a Ph.D. program in history. First task at hand, however, is to study how she can help Valenzuela, who is one of six that attended or are currently enrolled at Stanford at Lake Merced, reach the winner’s circle for the first time in her professional career.
In addition to the comradery Valenzuela shares with Wang, it has been a special homecoming of sorts for the Cardinal alumna. Even though she has never played Lake Merced, Valenzuela appreciates the Bay Area, just 30 miles from her alma mater.
“It's a drawer's golf course, I feel like, and that’s my trajectory. I always hit high draws,” said Valenzuela. “I feel like it suits my eye pretty well. The greens have many slopes, and I had a hard time adjusting. They were a little slower starting yesterday in the practice round, and that helped me get a good pace.
“I went back to Dallas [last week], spent some time there with my brother and then came early Saturday to see some friends at Stanford. It felt weird coming back. I see freshman and I'm like, ‘Oh, they are so young.’ That was me not long ago. I'm also staying with really good friends from Stanford that I met, the Epstein family [from Atherton]. I actually almost lived in their house my senior year. Being there, having home-cooked meals and just having a family setting, really feels great. I feel at home.”