By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Brianna Nguyen and Kylie Nguyen are not sisters, but the close-knit pair of golfers had the opportunity to play a round at the famed golf courses Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course for the PGA Tour Champions Tournament earlier this month.
The two earned the opportunity through the First Tee Organization to play on the famed courses. First Tee is a youth development nonprofit organization that builds the strength of character of youth through golf.
The First Tee rolled out the hospitality for the junior golfers at Pebble Beach. Bryanna and Kylie got to meet several professional golfers prior to the event and then had the chance to play a round with them. Bryanna was paired with local golf legend Fred Couples, and Kylie played with golf pro Gary Hallberg.
While there are no set rules on golf etiquette when playing with people you do not know, both are smart enough to follow social cues. Usually they are comfortable talking with other junior golfers their age, but feel comfortable with any setting.
“I think for both of us, we like to talk and socialize,” said Brianna of their rounds of golf. “It will be a great opportunity to socialize and network,” said Kylie, leading up to the tournament. In addition to the many golf pros at the event, there were many corporate executives that will be a part of the field.
While the two are regular high school students that enjoy getting Boba, going to the mall and shopping, they are outstanding in balancing golf with their academic activities. Brianna, a junior at Interlake High School sports a 3.85 GPA. She is also a member of the school’s concert and jazz choir, participates in the school’s theater program, and is on the yearbook committee. Kylie, a senior at Fife High School, has a 3.98 GPA and is a part of the Running Start Program. She is also a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, Key Club and Asian American Student Alliance at school.
Kylie’s high school golf season is during the fall so she practices every day. In her off season, she practices three to five times a day. She tries to get out once or twice a week to play a round. Brianna’s golf season is during the spring but she also practices three to five times a week, and plays a round or 9 holes a week. They both estimate dedicating 10-12 hours a week to golf.
The two started playing golf at an early age.
“My dad played through college and was a recreational golfer,” said Kylie,17. “Since he had two girls, he wanted to do a sport that he could do with us.” Her dad looked into getting them into First Tee and she has been a part of it since she was 9.
Brianna joined First Tee when she was 6.
“My uncle got us into golf,” said the Interlake High student. “My two older siblings started to play golf and I got into it through them.”
The two also have inspirations that have kept them going in the game of golf.
Kylie looks up to Minjee Lee.
“She’s a woman on the PGA tour and she’s making strides and winning a lot of majors.” She also noted that Le is reaching out to junior golfers—she made a video for the junior golfers attending the weekend at Pebble Beach.
Brianna’s hero is her sister.
“I look up to my sister personally. Just to see her grow up and watch her mature through the program, it’s been pretty exciting to see.”
In addition to their individual golf endeavors, the two have given back to the community by organizing their own golf tournament, the Nguyen Amateur which is held each summer. In its fourth year, the tournament is at North Shore Golf Course in Tacoma. This past summer, it had over 140 participants.
“We decided to give back to the programs that really raised us,” said Brianna. The two collaborated with families within the Vietnamese community to put together the event. Notably, many shared the Nguyen surname.
It was a grassroots effort at first to obtain sponsors to help put on the event. From there, they were able to reach out to friends and family that had ties to corporate groups like Microsoft and Amazon. This past year, they had the Puyallup Tribe as their title sponsor for the event.
Both golfers are role models to the younger set of golfers coming up. Brianna “grew up” with First Tee at a young age and worked her way up to being a junior coach. During her 10 years with the organization, she participated in fundraisers, charity events, speaking and eventually working with younger kids in the program. Kylie is also a junior coach with the First Tee and believes that being a part of the organization has helped with visibility as an Asian American.
“People recognize us [Brianna and herself] and say, ‘hey you’re a part of the Nguyen ‘family.’” Kykie added, “And that’s pretty cool.”
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org