Even Keeled

USD Golfer Alex Ching


Growing up in a tropical paradise like the South Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, certainly doesn’t earn Alex Ching any sympathy points from his Torero teammates. In fact, the senior captain of the USD golf squad gets the business every time he even hints at feeling a chill during the team’s morning practice sessions.

“I get all kinds of grief for being from Hawaii, especially if I ever complain about the weather,” the amiable 21-year-old admits.

After reviewing his stellar competitive résumé, you get the sneaking suspicion that the only real complaints about Ching come from his opponents on the course. As the reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year and four-year starter for the Toreros, he’s amassed some impressive individual statistics while helping propel his team to national prominence. Just this past November, he played a major role in helping the squad overcome a 13-stroke deficit to win the Kauai Collegiate Invitational for the fourth consecutive year. He’s also one of 26 golfers nationally to be listed on the 2011 Ben Hogan Award Watch List, which, for comparison purposes, is akin to being recognized as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate and future first-round NFL draft pick.

Oh, and then there was that time back at the 2010 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships in Ooltewah, Tenn., where he set course and tournament records for both individual round (he shot a 6-under-par 66), and 36-hole scoring (135). The previous holder of both of those records goes by the name of Tiger.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be mentioned with (Tiger Woods) as a golfer, but I’ve got a long way to go to even make it to the PGA tour,” Ching says.

What’s even cooler is Ching’s relaxed approach to a game that can turn saints into sinners with just one swing of the club. Those who have played with and against him marvel at his innate ability to keep his emotions in check come crunch time. He asserts his authority by hitting the right shot when it matters most.

Folks from the islands call it “mana,” a spiritual power that, when harnessed correctly, helps a person reach their full potential. Whether you buy into that bit of Polynesian mysticism or not, what’s irrefutable is Ching’s development as a player, and a person.

“When I was a freshman, I was kind of a baby,” he recalls, somewhat sheepishly. “I was in a new place with new teammates and it took a bit of time to acclimate, but I got a lot of support from the older guys on the team. They showed me the ropes and it really helped.

“This year, I’m the only senior on the team, and there’s definitely responsibility that comes with that. I do some things that I hope will set the standard for other guys, like motivating them to stay focused, which can be hard when you’re young.”

In addition to the on- and off-course responsibilities that come with being the team’s elder statesman, Ching definitely enjoys keeping some of the time-honored team traditions alive — to the dismay of the freshman on the squad.

“Oh yeah, you have to keep the young guys in line,” he says with a sly grin. “They have to do the little freshmen things, like carry our bags for us. Gotta teach them the ropes, right?” — Mike Sauer