New Zealanders Wenyung Keh and Julianne Alvarez are hoping to lead the Huskies on another deep postseason run, starting Sunday at the three-day Pac-12 women’s golf championships at Seattle’s Broadmoor Country Club.
There was no recruiting visit to the University of Washington campus. No practice rounds at local courses. No get-to-you-know dinners in downtown Seattle. There wasn’t even an in-person meeting with UW women’s golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur.
Looking back at her recruiting process, such as it was, Wenyung Keh couldn’t pinpoint one specific reason why she decided to leave her family home in New Zealand and play golf at UW, sight unseen.
But she’s sure glad she did.
Pac-12 women’s golf championships
Where: Broadmoor Country Club, Seattle
Did you know? Seven Pac-12 teams are ranked in top 20. ... Admission is free
“I had no idea what I signed up for,” Keh said. “Everything was a surprise when I got here.”
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Keh had initially planned to turn pro after finishing secondary school back in Auckland, New Zealand. But after some heartfelt talks with Julianne Alvarez — her teammate on the New Zealand national team and future teammate at UW — Keh ultimately did accept a scholarship from Mulflur over a Skype call in early 2015.
By the spring of 2016, Keh and Alvarez were, as freshmen, two of the driving forces that led the Huskies to their first NCAA golf championship.
Now juniors, they’re hoping to lead the Huskies on another deep postseason run, starting Sunday at the three-day Pac-12 women’s golf championships at Seattle’s Broadmoor Country Club. The Huskies, ranked No. 17 in the latest Golfweek rankings, are hosting the event for the first time since 2006.
“I feel really good about this team,” Keh said. “We’re a close-knit team, and we’re very comfortable with each other. I think we’ve got a good mindset heading into this event, and we’re just going to try to enjoy it as much as possible, being at home and just being grateful and appreciative that we don’t have to travel that far.”
The Huskies discovered Keh, 21, by happenstance. In January 2015, she was playing in the Australian Women’s Amateur, and then-UW assistant coach Andrea VanderLende was there to recruit Alvarez. After one of the early rounds, VanderLende turned to Alvarez and asked: “Who is your friend?”
Both Keh and Alvarez advanced to the match-play round of that Australian Amateur, and soon after the Huskies offered Keh their final scholarship in that recruiting class.
As Keh mulled the offer from UW, she asked a lot of questions of Alvarez, who had earlier visited the Seattle campus with her mom and toured the golf facilities. After that, Keh then had to convince her parents to let her leave for the United States.
“She was a little hesitant,” Alvarez said. “Because it’s very new. Nobody in New Zealand really knows anything about the (U.S.) college system. So she asked me a few questions, but I really didn’t know much either. I just said, ‘You know, if we get to play at an institution where they’re going to help us become better, provide us with world-class competition and allow us to practice and get an education — nothing in that sounds bad. We might as well.’
“So in the end, she said yes. And we both came here not really knowing what was going to happen. And we’re really glad we came here. Really glad. It’s been an amazing experience so far.”
Keh and Alvarez each won all three of their matches during the match-play portion of the 2016 NCAA Championships.
“I had no idea how big nationals was,” Keh said. “After we won, it was like, ‘Wow, this is actually a really big deal.’ It was amazing. Everything just went really well for us. We just played golf and focused on having fun. I think that was important.”
Keh enters the Pac-12 championships leading the Huskies with a stroke average of 72.85 this year. In eight tournaments during the regular season, she had four top-10 finishes and never finished outside of the top 25.
“When we were just coming in (to UW), we already had the skill and that kind of world-class level of play, but we were still pretty inconsistent with the performance,” Alvarez said. “But Wenyung has become really consistent, and she’s really focused on her fitness and her development. She’s hitting it longer, which is what you need on the courses here. Length definitely helps.”
The Seattle weather has never bothered Keh much. It rains about as much in New Zealand. The biggest surprise coming here initially, she said, were the rigors of the academic work at UW.
“I didn’t realize how much academics played into it,” said Keh, a communications major who will minor in nutrition. “That was a huge learning experience for me my freshman year to now, just understanding the importance of school and balancing school and golf.”
She’s found that balance, and glad she found her way to Seattle.
“Julianne said it was really good here and I trusted her,” Keh said. “And I think I made a really good decision.”