A first year at Claremont McKenna College, Maya Bhat has been swinging a golf club for most of her life. Influenced by her dad to start playing, she is now a member of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Women’s Golf team. She did not start playing competitively until her sophomore year in high school, but improved quickly from a handicap of about 18 to her current 2.8.
When did you start playing golf?
I’ve owned golf clubs since I was four, but I also started gymnastics when I was four. Gymnastics took up most of my time as I was training up to 26 hours each week and along with school there wasn’t much time for golf. I’d usually play once every three months or so until I got injured in gymnastics three years ago. I guess seriously and competitively I’ve been playing golf for about three years, but I’ve owned clubs for 14 years.
What influenced you to start golf?
My dad got my whole family into golf. He’s always loved it so he introduced my mom, brother and me to the sport and it became a family event. My parents travel a lot for work so when we do get time together we try to utilize it really well. One of the things we do together is play golf. We all have varying levels of skill but we all play. So on the occasional Sunday we would drive across the border from Singapore to Malaysia and play a round of golf. It’s a nice way to spend time with the family and I thank my dad for using it to connect the family.
What was it like to switch from gymnasticss to golf since they are so different?
It was tough. Both gymnastics and golf are very individual sports in the technical sense, but gymnastics is much more of a team sport. You’re always with your teammates, you go through the same crazy-hard training sessions, you get yelled at by the same coaches and you go through the same mental blocks. Since you spend so much time with your teammates they become your best friends and they’ve always got your back. Whereas with golf when you’re in a competition you are alone in your head and you have so many thoughts going through your mind. And controlling those thoughts rather than being able to laugh and talk with your friends was a huge difference. The fact that you also have to stay focused for 4-5 hours in a golf game was tough compared to the five minutes you are on the apparatus in a gymnastics competition.
What is the best part of being on a college team?
I guess the team. Now I have a consistent team and I’m playing with girls, which is crazy. Back home my whole team was guys except for one other girl. Now I’ve actually got girls to play with which is really cool. Also back home everyone had different training days and training hours so although we were a team we weren’t really because you just did your own thing. Being on a college team is kind of replicating the family that I missed from gym because we’re all going through the same thing together.
Can you tell me a little bit about your first tournament?
We played at Torrey Pines in San Diego, which is a beautiful course. I did not play as well as I would’ve hoped. I don’t know what happened but the two days we played were not my finest. It was a lot of fun though. Other than not playing well, the course was gorgeous and the team was super fun. The three days we were gone were the hottest three days in Claremont, so while all of my friends in the Claremont colleges were toasting, I was in a hotel with AC, super-comfortable beds, and pillows, and blankets and it was fantastic. It was a good team bonding experience, especially as a freshman coming onto the team.