Twenty years ago, perhaps 15 years ago, Brittany Shin would have quit golf. You would add her to the infinite list of golf prodigies-turned-burnouts. The clubs went away, life went on.
Only Shin wasn’t burned out. She was disgusted. A Florida State scholarship, her Florida State scholarship, fell through for reasons she declined to discuss. Every high-profile golf program that could have used a former Florida high school state champion — which Shin won as a freshman — suddenly had no room.
There weren’t any offers, so Shin reconciled her golf career was likely over. She put the clubs away and enrolled in Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.
This decision was so matter-of-fact, so reluctant that Shin had a hard time remembering the name of the school. She only recalled it based on their athletic mascot — the Sharks.
“I decided I didn’t want to play. Not being able to get a golf scholarship as a junior golfer, I didn’t want to play anymore if this was how it was going to be,” she said. “I wasn’t burned out. At that point in time, I didn’t know what to do. All the schools at that time had secured their players. I felt pretty hopeless.
“When you play junior golf for so long and when your parents put so much money into you and you were good, you want to make it easy for your parents. Because they supported you your entire life.”
Again, if this was the turn of the century, if this was before the age of social media, Shin’s clubs would still be in the closet. But high school state champions from golfing hotbeds do not remain secrets. Not when Instagram is on the case.
Shin got a follow request from Cal State Fullerton’s women’s golf Instagram account. Intrigued, she clicked on the page and looked at some of the pictures. There were shots of team members playing. But what caught Shin’s interest was the fun nature of the photos. Unlike some of the high-profile Division I programs — many of which are joyless golf factories resembling Eastern European Olympic teams before the fall of the Wall — these girls were enjoying themselves.
Never mind that Shin, who lived in Cape Coral, Fla. — the Gulf of Mexico city known for its canals and manatees — never heard of Cal State Fullerton. Well, other than “I heard they have a good baseball team.” She went further down the Instagram rabbit hole.
“It’s California. It looks like a pretty nice team, so I messaged them first,” Shin said. “I saw one video of a former teammate, Texie (Petchel). They’re all having fun and laughing. For a very long time, golf was a very stressful thing for me. Seeing them have fun, I got interested. This seems like a fun team. This is what I want. That’s kind of what caught my eye.”
This is what you call a win-win. Clubs back in tow, interest back in tow, Shin enrolled at Cal State Fullerton and the fun began shortly thereafter. Before the pandemic shut down the season last spring, Shin led the Titans in scoring average (73.67). She finished in the top 20 in four of the Titans’ five tournaments, placing in the top five three times.
The capper came in the University of North Florida Collegiate in Jacksonville, Fla., when Shin rallied from fourth entering the final round to tie Delaware’s Ariane Klotz at 1-over-par 217. She emerged victorious via a scorecard playoff, carding the better score over the final nine holes.
With that final-round, even-par 72, Shin became the Big West’s co-Golfer of the Month, sharing the title with Hawaii’s Tyra Tonkham. She also became the first Titan individual tournament winner in three years, since Martina Edberg won the Big West Tournament.
Shin’s skill set of final-round flurries already manifested itself. In her second college tournament at the Boston College Intercollegiate, Shin vaulted from 56th to a tie for fifth, largely via a 15-shot improvement from an opening-round 84 to a second-round 69.
This gives the Titans a player with a strong short game — never a bad thing. But even better to Cal State Fullerton head coach Kathryn Hosch, it gives her a player who prides herself on taking a clinical approach to the game.
When it comes to course management, the normally genial Hosch — who prides herself on creating the family atmosphere that caught Shin’s eye on Instagram — becomes the wicked stepmother. Course management is the hallmark of her program, and Hosch demands her players think their way around a course with the mental energy of a chess grandmaster. Players are required to know exact carry yardage for every one of their clubs, along with adjustments for elevation, wind and any other variable.
To play for Hosch, you had better know golf’s version of The Queens Gambit — and how to adapt when it doesn’t work.
“I know how to play my way around a course,” Shin said. “I think someone can have a beautiful swing — and there’s nothing wrong with having a beautiful swing — but if you don’t know how to play on the course, there’s no point. Knowing how to play a course and getting around the course is one of the key factors in scoring.”
So is keeping an emotional equilibrium, something Shin — like most young golfers — learned the hard way. After winning the state high school title as a high school freshman, Shin slumped her next two years, struggling with a swing change and controlling her emotions on the course.
She overcame mental meltdowns after bad holes or bad rounds with help of a sports psychologist in Florida. He helped Shin understand her emotions are good. But she needed a better way to control them and to understand you can only control what you can control.
And Shin is in control of her game these days. With the 2021 season starting this week, golf is fun again. Especially when you’re playing for a program that allows you to figure out what really matters.
“I played golf my entire life with the goal in mind of going to a big school or a Pac-12 school,” she said. “At the end of the day, those schools are great, but they’re not for everyone. I have a friend of mine who signed to go to the big schools. For me, being out here and growing on my own, I started to realize that going to these schools doesn’t solidify you’re going to be a great golfer. Getting there is something; it proves a point. But it doesn’t mean you’re going to kill it when you first get there.
“I don’t know how I would have turned out if I went to one of those schools. At the end of the day, I’m extremely grateful to be here. I loved the coaches here off the bat; they are extremely sweet people and down to earth. I love it here.”
Did you know? Shin started playing golf at 4, hitting 1,000 balls a day as a 4-year-old. “There are pictures of me at 3 in a Hello Kitty shirt holding a big club and swinging a club bigger than me,” she said.
She said it: Shin, on why she gravitated to golf: “I get bored very easily. You play other sports and the field is always the same. Even if you travel across the world, a baseball field is the same. A soccer field is the same. But a golf course, no matter how many times you play it, it plays different every time. Each course you play has different characteristics and that’s what makes it fun. To me, you can never get bored of it.”
— to www.ocregister.com