He mimicked his father, but because he was copying the mirror image, he swung left-handed. Chin, however, is right handed for everything else.
That didn’t stop Chin from being crowned Big West Golfer of the Year last month.
Chin tried swinging with his natural hand between the ages of six and seven when his father bought him a youth golf set, but he had grown accustomed to his left-hand. A switch to his right would be too uncomfortable and, ironically, unnatural.
Despite having the awkward-handed swing, Chin dominated throughout his youth.
“When I was 10, I started playing pee-wee leagues, and even then I figured, ‘Man, these kids stink. I could whoop ’em with my eyes closed,'” Chin said.
Chin developed a threatening long stroke. He has been known to swing below his strongest ability and still send the ball 40 yards further than his teammates. He describes his ability best: “Ball go long.”
Chin has increased his game every year since coming to UC Irvine. He was named Big West Freshman of the Year last year, and received conference Golfer of the Year honors in only his second year. His victory at the Big West Conference championship was his first at the collegiate level. In two years, he has already garnered two of the highest accolades in the Big West.
Coach Smolinksi raved about Chin’s game and attributes.
“[John has] unlimited potential,” Smolinksi said. “He has so much power, hits it so far and he can control it. I think the sky is the limit. He has all the tools.”
John is in no way unaware of his talent.
“I know I can play–I am confident enough to where if I do my thing, my average–I can beat anyone else,” Chin said.
At first glance, one may deem Chin as cocky. However, this can easily be dismissed as confidence from overcoming an extreme mental struggle.
After impressive years prior to his senior year at Temecula Valley High School, Chin experienced what those in the golf community call “yips.” The yips is a movement disorder that usually affects putting. However, for Chin, the yips affected every aspect of his game.
“I would have no idea where the ball was going to go when I hit it,” Chin said.
After an abysmal senior year, Chin took a year off to weigh his future. Did he want to continue playing golf? Did he have the talent to get to the next level? Could he get out of this slump?
Chin eventually realized that golf was his life. It was his all or nothing. He reevaluated his plan, and began to turn things around.
“I grinded it out, worked at every aspect of the game. That year off was big for me,” Chin said.
Almost about to turn pro, Chin decided that, after getting in contact with Coach Smolinski, he would choose to play at UCI, the big school that believed in him.
From a miserable yips victim one year, Chin transformed to be the Big West Freshman of the Year the next.
“First few tournaments, I was overwhelmed with everything, playing college golf. [That’s] 36 holes in a day. I guess what broke through for me was the third tournament last year up in Pacific. I had a solid tournament, and after that I thought, ‘Why can’t I do this every time?'” Chin said.
Chin finished in ninth in the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate in Solvang, California last season, an impressive feat for a freshman, considering the plethora of All-Americans in the field.
The win provided the confidence Chin needed as he went into every tournament thereafter with the attitude that Coach Smolinski raves about.
“[Chin’s] attitude is good, he works hard, learns from his mistakes,” Smolinki said. “He finds a way to be more competitive each game. He has found the right formula and recipe for him to be a good player, and to play his best golf.”
All of Chin’s hard work culminated in his birdie on the final hole in the Big West Championship to win the title.
“Looking back, you have to tell yourself you are going to get over this hurdle [for first collegiate win],” Chin said. “Like last week, I was thinking, ‘What do I have to do to win a tournament? Do I have to get lucky? Do I have to catch a good break?’ If you just truly believe in yourself, you will get over that hurdle sooner or later.”
The perspective Chin has gained from overcoming his struggles has given him great reassurance in his abilities.
Like any top athlete, he recognizes no matter what the situation, one has to step up and accept it.
His confidence and success increases as he passes a milestone. Now that he has finally won his first collegiate event, many more shall come. And he knows this.
A Big West Best Freshman. A Big West Best Golfer. Is there a chance the Anteaters will have a top finish in NCAA?
“Oh, yeah,” Chin said quickly, with a rightfully positive and heartening swagger.
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