Joliana Elias and Melany Chong are driving forces in wom
en’s golf at Appalachian State University. With accomplishments such as both firing 2-under 70s at their Sun Belt Women’s Golf Championships last year, Melany Chong earning the title of All-American Scholar in July of 2017 and Elias shooting a 154 in last year’s Winthrop Intercollegiate last October, both women are challenging stereotypes of Asian women.
Both Elias and Chong have very different upbringings, yet they both live for the game.
Chong played baseball, softball, and golf growing up with the intention of playing softball in college. However, when her parents appealed to her that she could make golf a lifelong career, “that was when I knew that I could play golf for the rest of my life,” said Chong.
Elias however, realised her love for golf when she discovered that there was a team at her school. “I never really lived in a household where sports were a big deal. I lived with my mom who was a single mom, she was the one who told me to play golf at my middle school. She definitely had a big influence on me playing,” said Elias.
As Elias continued her golf career she noticed some polarising differences in how women, particularly minority women, were portrayed in the sports media. “I don’t see many other asian women playing or being represented in the media. Just by being a woman in sports, you see that there is more publicity on men’s sports whether its amerature, collegiate, or professional,” said Elias.
Yet, Elias was able to find a refuge in golf that she personally did not think she could find in other sports. “In golf, it’s interesting because when I started playing, I didn’t realise how large the Asian presence was. I am adopted, and my mom isn’t Asian, so I thought it was really cool because I guess I could connect more with the sport since there were more people like me who played,” said Elias.
Perceptions of women in sports are highly due to how female athletes are shown in the media. Chong said, “Just watching the NCAA championships, people look and see the the women’s, but there is more excitement towards the men’s. But growing up, most of my friends were guys who played golf and we always supported each other, so I think the problem [of female athlete performance] is a cultural perception.”
The current coverage of women in sports is also hindering the future of female athletes. Because the media prioritizes advertisements for men’s sports, women’s recruitment is becoming less competitive. Elias recognized this and looks at her current coach, Heather Brown, as a role model who will hopefully change the image of women’s golf at Appalachian in the future. “The old coach who left last year, coached both the men's and women’s teams so I don't think there wasn’t much attention on the women’s team. So when she [Heather Brown] came, it definitely made a bigger impact on the women’s team and started recruiting more serious players,” said Elias.
Both athletes hope to see a change in the way that the media broadcasts diversity among teams in an effort to hopefully inspire more women. “Hopefully women’s golf becomes more popular, especially here in the mountains. But hopefully more women in the future will be passionate about it and will actually want to make a career out of it, said Chong”
Photo Credit: Joliana Elias