BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Balance.
It is something that is the foundation of every good golf swing.
And, in the case of Anina Ku, balance is also an integral part of what has made the 2018 Ridge High School graduate one of the best golfers in New Jersey, while maintaining a level of academic excellence that has earned her acceptance into Harvard University.
"Anina sets a high bar for herself," said Ridge girls golf coach Siobhan Devlin. "Her time management skills are remarkable. The one thing I love most about her is that she realizes she has to put in the work to get the results."
And in the clasroom as well as on the golf course, Ku has done that. This week, she will be competing in the Polo Golf Junior Classic AJGA tournament at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield.
"Every player (in this tournament) is really talented," Ku said. "It is one of the biggest tournaments in junior golf. This is my first year playing in it, and it includes the top 42 ranked girls in the nation."
During her senior season at Ridge, Ku finished in second place in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions with a 68, which was 4 under par and just one shot behind champion Kelly Sim of Holy Angels High School. Ku's performance in the 2018 Somerset County Tournament turned out to be a career highlight. She shot a 10-under-par 62 at Neshanic Valley to win the county's individual title while Ridge was also winning the county team championship.
"That was super special," Ku said of the Somerset County title. "And my teammates won the team county championship also. I also won Skyland Conference individual championship this year with a 68. I won at Neshanic as a freshman with a 68, then my sophomore year I had a 67, as a junior I shot 65, and then as a senior, a 62, with a 29 on the front nine. It’s definitely a course with a lot of opportunities, so you are going to have chance at shooting a low score. I eagled four holes in county tournament. Even still, after front 9, I was 7 under."
Ku, who was third in the Tournament of Champions as a junior, has excelled by leaving no detail unattended to during her preparation.
"As a golfer, what separates her from most of the state is her attention to detail and doing the little things is just spectacular," Devlin said. "Most kids just want to go to the range and hit, but she does the little things day in and day out, doing little steps before you can run. She'll do drill after drill in preparation, and she doesn't cut corners. Anina sticks to a practice plan on a daily basis, and recognizes that if you do the little things right and often it will lead to bigger and better things.
"She doesn't just go out and putt, she has very specific drills. She puts pressure on herself, where she has to make 10 7-foot putts in a row or she doesn’t do the next drill. If she misses one, she goes back and does it again. She will apply match-like pressure in order to succeed in all areas of her game. With a 50-foot chip shot, seven out of 10 have to be within 7 feet or she doesn't move on. She does it with all aspects of her game."
Ku took time to celebrate her graduation with her senior class last Wednesday, but it didn't take long for her to get back to preparing for this week's tournament.
"Actually, on the day of graduation, I took a day off, and we had an all-nighter trip," Ku said. "I came back from that Thursday morning, then I went back out Thursdy afternoon to the course. I had been working hard before graduation, putting in a lot of time getting ready for this."
Ku's love for golf was cultivated at a very young age, when she saw her older sister, Hana, devoting hours to playing the sport.
"I started playing golf when I was around 4 years old," Ku said. "At that time my sister Hana,who is five years older than me, was playing. She picked up the game aggressively and practiced a lot, so I practiced a lot at a young age. When i was 7 or 8, I had a head start because I started so early. But there are so many other talented girls who have caught up now. Right now it’s a good competitive sport.
Hana Ku played golf at Princeton University before graduating from the Ivy League school in 2017.
Anina's deft ability to balance the interests and pursuits in her life extends beyond studies and golf.
"I've worked hard on studying and kept up with grades all four years," Ku said, "and I also have volunteered after school with a social services club at Ridge working with mentally and physically disabled kids. I have also been involved with the Thirst Project, which raises money to build wells and in Africa. We organized different fundraisers like car washes, sales of jewelry and other events."
In addition to the obvious influence of her older sister, Hana, Anina also credits Devlin with being a valuable mentor and friend over the years.
"She has been an amazing coach," Ku said. "She has been a coach for a long time, and players have come and gone, but Ridge is always near the top thanks to her dedication to the team, and her constant dedication to the younger players. It’s been inspiring to watch her."
Ku is facing her next challenge this week with the same approach she takes toward everything.
"I have played Echo Lake twice, just recently, and it’s completely different than high school golf in difficulty and the length of the course," she said. "I’ve played other invitationals, but this is a different level."