For many college students, four years of school can seem to fly by quickly. For student-athletes, grueling workouts, travel and the rigors of competing at the Division I level can make it go by even quicker. In this series, the Daily Trojan sits down with senior athletes playing various sports at USC to discuss their experience over the past four years, from their athletic life to their academic life. This week’s senior is men’s golfer Justin Suh, the No. 1 ranked amateur golfer in the world.
Q: What is your favorite memory at USC?
The one that sticks out is winning at Rolling Hills [my junior year], that was the Pac-12 Championship. That one sticks out because the past couple of years, we’ve been close at nationals and last year, we didn’t get to nationals. So Pac-12 sticks out to us as one of our bigger wins. For it to be in front of our home crowd, in front of the whole fanbase, it was a very electrifying win we had against a couple of names — [Cal’s] Collin Morikawa and [Oregon’s] Norman Xiong, two of the top players at the time … It was a picture-perfect win for me.
Q: Do you have any regrets from the past four years?
I don’t regret anything, to be honest. Since freshman year, the goal has always been to become a better golfer. I feel like I’ve done that and progressed — I wouldn’t say slowly, but in a timely manner. Freshman year was a building year. Sophomore year, I was able to get into competition in the lead and the final groups. Junior and senior year, it was all about winning and getting better, getting ready for the next chapter in my life, which is professional golf.
As for the memories and friendships I’ve created at USC, it’s been an unbelievable journey so far. I’ve met such intelligent minds at USC in the business school, in the athletic facility with all our trainers, nutritionists, coaches. There’s nothing to regret.
Q: What’s one thing about golf that most people don’t know?
It’s an athletic sport. A lot of people might put that as not the right term for golf, but it really is. We’re walking every morning, we all have physical demanding needs in our swing, just to hit the ball further. The training that we do … it’s a mentally and physically demanding sport, and that’s something a lot of people don’t realize because you see casual golf as more of the image of golf. That’s not what it is. We’re competing, we’re grinding out there. It’s a tough sport.
Q: What have you had to sacrifice in order to be a student-athlete?
We have to sacrifice a lot. Golf especially, we’re on the road probably the most out of any sport here. When we compete, we travel probably four days out of the week. Most of our seasons, we’re traveling weekdays, so we’re missing a lot of school, we’re missing a lot of classes, and that’s something I can’t really get back … I wish I had more time to be more involved in school activities, but the memories I’ve created with my team and with other student-athletes is unregrettable.
Q: What is your schedule like?
We practice every morning, Monday through Friday. We wake up [around] 5:30 to 5:45 a.m. We have to drive to the course before traffic, and leave before 6 a.m. We tee off right at 7 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until 11:30 a.m., get back to campus around noon. Tuesdays and Thursdays we have on-campus practice, wake up around the same time, get to campus around 6:30 a.m., start working until 10:30 a.m. and then weights 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. We have a pretty jam-packed practice schedule, but that’s just what it takes to compete at nationals and perform at the level that we’re at.
Q: What’s next for you?
Right after nationals [in May] is when I’ll be turning professional, so every tournament and every second counts before then.
Q: Do you have any advice for freshman athletes?
Just to learn. One of the best pieces of advice that I got was before I came to college — I talked to a friend of mine, [former Stanford golfer and No. 1-ranked amateur] Maverick McNealy. I went through the same path as him, where freshman year was shaky. Senior year, he ended up winning 11 college titles. I asked for his advice before I came to college, and he said, “Just to learn.” Just to learn from the guys that are on your team because everyone’s good at something. Just enjoy college because I can say it now — it went by pretty quick. It’s just been a learning process.