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Engineer earns spot in golf championships

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- -- Five years ago, Capt. Bai Lan Zhu had never played golf in her life. Her only exposure to the sport came from a video game. Now, after playing for only four and a half years, the 5th Space Launch Squadron engineer responsible for the electrical subsystems to the Delta IV launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral AFS, is competing in the All-Air Force Golf Championship today through Sept. 20 at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Her interest in golf started in college.

"As I was getting ready to graduate from AFROTC in 2002, I asked an assistant professor of aerospace science what the most popular sport in the Air Force is," Captain Zhu said. "He said golf and I kept that in the back of my mind. My first purchase with my first second lieutenant paycheck was a new PC and it came with the game 'Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003.' I got hooked on it and thought the real thing would be a lot of fun, so I took it up the following spring and got hooked on that instead."

If she does well at the championship, Captain Zhu may be one of three women who represent the Air Force at the 2007 Armed Forces Golf Championship. She hopes to be one of the two women out of that championship selected to the 2007 U.S. Armed Forces Golf Team. That team will participate in the 2007 Conseil International du Sports Militaire Golf Championship in Sun City, Republic of South Africa, Sept. 29 through Oct. 6.

These events go along with her goals in golfing, which are to be the Air Force Golf Champion, Armed Forces Golf Champion and U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion.

"I still have a long way to go, but I'm aiming high!" said Captain Zhu.

Captain Zhu hones her skills by playing a few times a week. She has played the Patrick course and likes the layout and looks forward to the completion of the renovation project.

"With so many large golf course housing communities popping up all over Florida, it's hard to find courses without homes or short enough to walk," Captain Zhu said. "Manatee Cove is one of the few that still has a classic course feel. It has short distances between one green to the next, which is great for walkers. There are no surprises or blind spots. Everything is laid out in front of you. As an avid golfer, I can always appreciate any improvements and look forward to playing the course once the renovation is 100 percent complete."

There are a few reasons Captain Zhu enjoys playing golf.

"It's fun and it's hard to excel in," Captain Zhu said. "It's a sport that requires not only physical strength and stamina, but also intelligence, emotional control and an understanding of physics."

Apparently she is well on her way in mastering those requirements. Last July, Captain Zhu celebrated her first victory. She won the Florida Women's State Amateur Championship, net division.