Lynden's Ming among NWC's elite golfers

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 21, 2014 

Lynden’s Emily Ming competes on Monday, May 13, 2013, at Skagit Golf and Country Club.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Scott Sahagian, the girls' golf coach at Lynden, had yet to meet Emily Ming before hearing of her prowess with a club.

Bo Stephan, the women's golf coach at Western Washington University and the manager at the Homestead Golf and Country Club in Lynden, stopped Sahagian to offer some friendly advice nearly three years ago after seeing her play.

"He said, 'Hey, whoever is your No. 1 and 2 golfer, tell them they are now your 2 and 3,'" Sahagian said in a phone interview.

Considering the source, Sahagian's interest was piqued.

That was just after Ming, now a senior, had moved with her parents from Texas to Lynden to be with an ill family member, and she was largely an unknown.

But if time has proven anything, it was that Stephan was right.

"I was pretty anxious to see who is the new kid that had come in and replaced our 1 and 2," Sahagian said. "Just one of those things when you walk alongside her or you can walk from afar, she has it all put together."

Her composed nature and savvy understanding of the game led her to a 12th-place finish at the Class 2A Girls' Golf State Championships last year after shooting a two-day total of 181 at the Classic Golf Club in Spanaway.

And while Bellingham has long reigned as the premier golf program with the premier golfers in the county, Sahagian believes Ming is at very least in the conversation as one of the best in the Northwest Conference.

"She's good all over the place. Good long game and short game," Sahagian said. "It's fun to watch her if one aspect is not going well, she can pick it up."

Ming's aspirations are on another state appearance and a top-five finish in the NWC this season. And as she continues to work on her game, staying well beyond the confines of the Lions' practice, she seems primed for another strong season.

What's impressed Sahagian more than anything in his two-plus years of coaching her is her remarkable attention to detail. She's a student of the game more than anything else, he said.

And in instances when he's caddied for Ming during practice rounds, he tests her knowledge of the game by purposefully offering poor advice on what club to use on a given shot. She sees through it nearly every time, he said.

"From 150 yards, she's going to tell you what club and how to hit it without thinking," he said. "Before I suggest, 'Looks like a soft pitching wedge,' she's already pulling it out of the bag. She knows what's going on, but it's fun to mess with her."

Golf offered Ming an outlet of sorts following the move from Texas to Lynden before her sophomore year. The move was made to be closer to her ailing grandfather, she said in a phone interview, and the frequency with which she played golf was quite high.

"I've been playing golf from a young age, and it stuck with me," Ming said. "It helped me out a long way, (with) that one thing that was still part of me that I could still do."

The courses were far different, though, she joked, looking out to a Homestead range that posed challenges far different than any course she had played at in Texas.

"You can see Mount Baker, and down in Texas is flat. You can just see houses," she said. "Up here I think they tend to be a little shorter, but just different styles with more trees. ... The greens are a little more true."

She's adapted well, now being presented with a new challenge: Being the team captain to a fairly young team.

Ming leads a small group of varsity returners, with fellow senior Ashlyn Morgan combining with her to make a solid 1-2 for Sahagian, and filling the role is something she's yet to do.

With that said, Sahagian gave her that responsibility for a reason.

"She doesn't second guess herself," he said. "Golf is a game where things don't always go your way, and she learns from her mistakes."

However few there are, Sahagian added.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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