Sophomore golfer featured in Sports Illustrated

| Staff Reporter

Connie Zhou

Connie Zhou was featured in the Faces in the Crowd section of the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated

Basketball stars Kevin Love, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge and Washington University sophomore Connie Zhou all either were raised in or currently reside in Lake Oswego, Ore., a suburb of Portland. All were also featured in this past week’s issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, the NBA preview issue.

Zhou is not an NBA player, but a golfer. She won the Golfweek Fall Invitational on Oct. 13-15 at the Baytowne Golf Club in Destin, Fla., with the lowest three-round score in Wash. U. school history, a 219 (76-72-71). Her final day score of 71 was the third-lowest round in school history.

For her accomplishments, Zhou was featured in the Faces in the Crowd section of Sports Illustrated, which highlights the athletic achievements of various high school and college student-athletes.

“I’ve been in my local newspaper,” Zhou said. “But this is something that I would have never imagined…it’s really awesome.”

To win the Golfweek Fall Invitational, Zhou edged past Loretta Giovannettone of Methodist University, the No. 1 ranked player in Division III, by two strokes. Led by Zhou, the Bears finished second overall in the tournament standings, behind only Methodist.

“It was the best I’ve ever played over a three day tournament, but mainly it was just a consistent weekend,” Zhou said. “I’ve shot better rounds than those, but not all together with that consistency.”

In order to be selected for Sports Illustrated, Zhou first had to be nominated. Chris Mitchell, Washington University’s director of Sports Information, was impressed by Zhou’s play, but he found a roadblock in trying to honor her for the accomplishment.

“Connie had an exceptional performance on the golf course that week,” Mitchell said. “I was looking for a way to put her up for an honor, but there’s not a weekly honor for women’s golf in the [University Athletic Association].”

Trying to find a place to get some recognition for Zhou, Mitchell submitted a nomination to the Faces in the Crowd section, which has been published in Sports Illustrated every week since 1956 and has included the likes of Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods and Chris Evert. Mitchell heard that Zhou would be in the magazine the day before the issue hit newsstands.

“[When] I called her on Tuesday, she was just thrilled,” Mitchell said.

“I was really excited because I’ve always been a sports junkie since I was in middle school,” Zhou said. “I would make collages out of all the players in Sports Illustrated, so to actually be in it is so cool.”

Her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by her teammates, friends and family. Zhou said that her teammates’ support has been “unreal” and that her family was also tracking her success.

Sahil Patel | Student Life

Student Life reporter Danny Schwartz conducts an interview with Zhou.

“My parents don’t really show too much emotion necessarily, so I would never know if they were excited about it, but my dad would say, ‘Have you mailed me that newspaper yet? Where is it?’” Zhou said.

Zhou started golfing at age 11, having grown up just three minutes walking distance from a golf course in Lake Oswego, and began competing in small tournaments the next year. At Wash. U., Zhou was the No. 2 ranked freshman in Division III last year. Even with that accomplishment and the Golfweek Fall Preview win to her name, Zhou is not entirely satisfied with her golfing career as a Bear.

“I think I’m actually a little more inconsistent this year, but I’m able to post lower some rounds,” Zhou said. “In the middle of the season, I kind of had a putting crisis, but I’ve taken care of that and gotten my confidence back up.”

Mitchell said that he occasionally nominates Wash. U. student-athletes for Faces in the Crowd, but no Bears have been featured in the section since 2006, when women’s soccer player Meghan Marie Fowler-Finn made the cut.

“One of the frustrating parts of my job is that we have so many fabulous teams on this campus, but we just don’t get the national coverage,” Mitchell said. “For one of our student-athletes to get that is a tremendous honor and well-deserved…it’s a great honor and something that she will remember for the rest of her life,” Mitchell said.

An avid Portland Trail Blazers fan, Zhou was excited to be featured in the NBA preview issue alongside her favorite team. In fact, Zhou is a neighbor of Lillard and met last season’s Rookie of the Year during the summer.

“I heard him dribbling through my window, and I walked over to his house,” Zhou said. “He was practicing with his friend and said to me and my friend, ‘Hey, come over here,’ and they just asked us some questions and were really nice. He just seems like a really down to earth guy.”

Zhou may not get recognized in her hometown of Lake Oswego like its famous NBA residents. But now that she is in a national magazine, maybe Lillard will accept an invitation to hit the links together in the upcoming summer.