International students tee off at ‘Golf as a Career Builder’​​

International students also offered tutorials on World Series, Super Bowl and March Madness

From foreground: Students Manish George, Vipul Panday, Sandeep Josan, all of India, and Fan Zhang, of China, learn to drive a golf ball at Highlands Golf and Tennis Center in Forest Park. The WUSTL program, “Golf as a Career Builder,” introduces international students to golf. (Credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos (2))

Before a recent outing to Forest Park, international student Adina Stoica had never played golf. Well, that’s not entirely correct.

“I have played minigolf, but that is different,” said Stoica, a computer science PhD candidate from Romania. “There are golf fields in Romania, but I never played.”

Stoica was among 16 international students who recently took “Golf as a Career Builder,” a crash course in putting and driving at the Highlands Golf and Tennis Center in Forest Park. And, like most experienced golfers, she found the sport both fun and frustrating.

“Are you supposed to dig holes in the ground,” she asked course pro Mark Lewis after she whacked a ball — and a clump of the turf — skyward.

Stoica does not aspire to master the game. She knows that would take hours and hours of practice. But she does want to understand it. After all, a lot of business still gets done on a golf course.

“If you are working for a major corporation, it’s good to know golf,” Stoica said.

Yiwen Zhang sinks her first putt.

Absolutely, agreed Jason Marquart of the Washington University in St. Louis Office for International Students and Scholars. This is the second year the OISS has co-hosted the event with the Career Center. The OISS also offers tutorials on the World Series, Super Bowl and March Madness.

“Go to any office and you hear talk about fantasy football and golf,” Marquart said. “Sports is a big part of the American workplace. We’re trying to give them enough knowledge so that they can be part of the conversation. You can have a great resume, but there are other things you need to know to fit in.”

“Golf as a Career Builder” is among the OISS’ most popular programs. Slots for the class were filled within 20 minutes; 60 students joined the waiting list. Participants came from all corners of the globe (China, India, Iran, Mexico and other nations) and campus (business, chemistry,engineering, law and other majors).

During the 90-minute session, Lewis showed the students how to grip a club, bend their knees and take a swing. Some players whiffed as often as they made contact, but Lewis encouraged them to keep trying.

“It takes a lot of repetition,” Lewis told the students. “To get comfortable takes 10,000 swings — and that’s just to get comfortable. It’s 30,000 swings to get any sort of game.”

Michael Chapin, assistant director of career development at the Career Center, is a golfer himself. He says golf is like a tough boss — it demands total focus.

“Golf enhances a person’s discipline, consistency, strategy and competitive skills,” Chapin said. “These are certainly needed for career development. Beyond those skills, golf gives the opportunity for great communications and interpersonal skills.”

And it’s a blast. Vivek Shah, a chemical engineering student from India, was new to the game but quickly wowed Lewis with his powerful drives. He’s not sure if golf plays into his future career plans.

“But it’s a good idea to learn it earlier than later,” Shah said. “Either way, I’m having fun.”