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BOGACZYK: Smaller Campus, Larger Opportunity for `Ning'

April 6, 2015



            HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- She came to Marshall sight unseen, but not long after Pimrawee Huang arrived on campus -- and figured things out -- she figured she had found a home for more than her golf game.

            Huang -- nicknamed "Ning" -- moved to Marshall this semester after three semesters at Iowa State, where she was basically the No. 6 player in a top 40 program that pretty much plays the same five in every event.

            Huang, from Nakornpatom, Thailand, did plenty of research on schools and picked the Herd and its rebounding program under first-year Coach Tiffany Prats -- who never had met Huang. The sophomore found better weather -- even through this cold winter, she said -- and a chance to play.

            It also helped, especially in her early days on campus, that one teammate was senior Korakot "Gone" Simsiriwong, a fellow Thai native. When Huang and her mother arrived in the pre-semester days, a couple of other teammates drove them around Huntington.



            "This is so funny," Huang said. "They picked my mother and I up at the hotel, and for me it looked like buildings here are all the same. "We drove from the hotel right down to Walmart, down to Pullman (Square). I thought from 7-Eleven (on Fifth Avenue) to Pullman is all campus. I came from a bigger school.

            "Then when I was here for a while, I figured it out, `Oh, campus is not that big,' Huang said, laughing. "The stupidest question I asked Gone, who's a senior, was, `Gone, I thought we had a bus here, like the school bus.' Gone's like, `Ning, you don't really need a bus here; you don't really need a car. Get the school map.' And I look at the map and it takes me like five minutes to walk to class."

            It's the same distance for Huang to head to the Henderson Center's golf hitting room -- a place she spent a lot of time before Marshall began a season that continues this week with tournaments in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Murray, Ky.

            "She never came to campus here, and I'd never seen her play," Prats said, who talked to ISU coaches about Huang before her release and transfer. "All I'd seen were her scores, and pretty much everything said about her has been true.

            "She's gotten here, been a great addition personality-wise, golf-wise, work ethic; she's just a great kid. And I think it was great for us to get someone like Ning who had a little bit more experience and maturity behind her. She's played on the big college level, one of top programs in the country, so she's seen how they prepare. And I think as a coach, that helps me, too.

            "When we were practicing (at MU's new indoor facility), she'd say, `Hey, we did this drill (at Iowa State),' and it's not necessarily stuff that I knew. So, it's helped me with practices. And just the way she can talk to the team on things like, `This is what it really takes.'

            "Brian (Levi, graduate assistant coach) and I saw -- the first two weeks she was here -- that every single day she was in the hitting room practicing. We weren't having practice, but she was there, and I think it's helped the team that they saw how hard she was practicing, and they've stepped up their games as well."

            Huang, who turns 20 on April 22 -- the final day of the 2015 Conference USA Championships in Fort Myers, Fla. -- did her homework on finding the opportunity she wanted.

            "Before I decided to transfer, to be honest, I talked to a lot of schools, read through it all," Huang said. "When I talked to Coach Tiffany on the phone, I could feel her vision and plan and I felt like she knew what she was going to do.

            "She knew all the resources, how she would help me. Even though it's her first head coaching job, she has a lot of experience. She was at Maryland (as an assistant coach) and I have a friend at Maryland (sophomore golfer Panitta Yasabai) so she talked to me about Coach Tiffany. I heard good things."

            Huang said she has just about settled on a major in finance and international business, and going to college halfway around the world from her home was part of the plan long ago.

            "Since I was little, I have had a dream of studying abroad," the Herd sophomore said. "And then I started playing golf when I was 12. When I was 15, I talked with people from the Thai Student Federation and I learned that it was actually not bad to come study in the States.

            "You have more opportunity to play golf here, you have workouts that make you stronger, all the programs to improve yourself -- and especially if you want to go pro after college. It's easier than trying to go from Thailand. And, of course, you also learn another language, which helps a lot."

            Since arriving, Huang has played No. 3 in the Herd lineup, behind seniors Simsiriwong and Sarah Helly of Ireland. She hopes to grasp a leadership role in coming seasons as Prats infuses the program with new talent.

            She was one of the top junior golfers in Thailand, but she finds the American college game different ... and appreciates that difference, she said.

            "Playing college golf is totally different," Huang said. "When I played junior golf, you're playing for yourself and here, you're playing as a team, so every single stroke counts. Whether you do good or bad in your mind, you concentrate on every shot. Like Coach says, even though I hit a bad shot, everything counts, so I have to push hard and bring myself back into the game.

            "My mental game has improved a lot since my freshman year in Iowa. I struggled then with mental game and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I cannot be myself on the golf course and kind of worried about things I can't control.

            "Here, Coach Prats has told me it's about one shot at a time, and focus on the things that you can control. So, that's kind of helped me come back to my game and focus on my game rather than other things around me. It makes my game a lot better."

            So, that leaves but one question to which even Prats didn't know the answer ... How did Pimrawee Huang get her nickname?

            "OK, Ning," Huang said with a grin. "I'm half Taiwanese, Taiwan-Chinese. And mostly the Thai people have a long name, so you see nicknames like Gone, Ning. Actually, my dad came up with mine, and it comes from my Chinese name. It's Huang -- you say last name first (in Chinese) -- so my name, it's Huang Yi-Ning. That's what Ning is from. I never told anyone before my nickname is from Chinese."