There is a good reason Phil Mickelson is Edan Cui’s favorite golfer.
“We share the same birthday,” said the eighth-grader at Crystal Springs Uplands School.
Cui has another thing in common with “Lefty”: Cui wins a lot, too. Starting at the age of 6, Cui got his first set of golf clubs and fell in love with the sport. He was enamored by the gear he saw on the course and the pageantry surrounding tournaments. He was curious about the range finders he saw people using and enjoyed the post-tournament awards ceremony.
The connection to all of it is the game and Cui is certainly enjoying the journey.
“On my sixth birthday, my present was a set of clubs and a lesson. … I think we just wanted to try something new,” said Cui, 13. “That was the first real serious sport. I played baseball, [swam] and basketball (previously). … I think I really loved [golf] from the start.”
Within the year, Cui entered his first tournament, finishing in sixth place. He kept playing in tournaments and kept working his way up the leaderboard. In 2016, he started taking down tournament championships and he hasn’t stopped, compiling 60 wins at tournaments around the country.
“I realized how good I could be if I kept practicing,” Cui said.
In Junior Golf Association Northern California tournaments, for example, Cui has eight wins in 21 starts since 2014, including winning the Baylands (Palo Alto) Junior Championship (ages 12 to 18) at the end of July. He opened the two-round tournament with a 3-under 69 and came back the next day with a 4-under 68 to finish at 7-under 137, two shots ahead of the runner. Earlier in July, Cui was second at the JGANC/NCGA U12 Nor-Cal Players Championship at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach.
Cui can also lay claim to the title of best junior golfer in his age group in the state after winning both the Northern California and Southern California US Kids State Championship tournaments. He shot 11-under to win by five strokes at Nor Cal tournament at the Reserve at Spanos Park & Micke Grove Golf Links in Stockton in late June. This past week, Cui added the So Cal version of the tournament title, shooting 7-under at Los Robles Greens in Thousand Oaks. Second place was 4-over.
His consistent success has led Cui to play in American Junior Golf Association tournaments, some of the most prestigious junior golf tournaments in the world.
Cui’s success can be attributed to the relentless work he puts into his game. Not only does he play a lot of rounds of golf, he spends hours on the range and putting green.
“That’s his every day,” said Rob Cannone, CSUS middle school athletic director and golf coach. “His coach-caddy picks him up after school every day, they go straight to the [course], practices his short game, putting, then goes to Stanford and hits at the range until 7 p.m.,” Cannone said. “During the summer, he plays 18 and practices every day. [His success] is not a lack of commitment, for sure.”
Said Cui: “I’d practice from 4 (o’clock) until the lights went out (at the range).”
While Cui’s commitment to the physical part of the game has played into his success, so has his mental approach. In a day and age when everyone on the professional tour is looking to hit 370-yards off the tee, Cui’s favorite club are some of the shortest in his bag.
“My wedge game. If I’m within 110 yards, I’m confident that I’ll put it within 10 feet (of the cup),” Cui said, when asked what he thought was the best part of his game.
“I’ve played with many boys who are older and hit further than me (off the tee), but I don’t get intimidated by that. I know the driver is the first shot that sets you up for the next shot. … We just aim for the middle of the fairway.”
If wedges are the best part of his game, then it would be his putting Cui believes needs to be better.
“It can be frustrating at times — hit it very close and not make the putt,” Cui said. “Practicing putting can sometimes not be very interesting … but it will really show up when I get out on the course.”
One thing that won’t show up on the course are Cui’s emotions. Despite being only 13, he has already grasped the importance of not getting too giddy over a good shot, or too mad after a bad one.
“One of the strengths of Edan is, you can not tell whether he birdied (a hole) or bogeyed,” said Min Cui, Edan’s father. “As a father, I’m so proud of Edan. He never curses on the course and he rarely has a bad attitude.
“He’s more mature than his age. On the course, he is mentally very, very strong.”
Cannone backed up that assessment.
“I’ve never seen him show anything but happiness on a golf course,” Cannone said.
Then again, Cannone has seen Cui mostly in a team setting and it’s when he’s playing on a team that Cui has the most fun. He travels to the East Bay to play with San Ramon All-Stars in the PGA Jr. League, advancing to national championship tournament last summer. Cui is also a member of the CSUS middle school team, where he has helped the Gryphons to league tournament wins in the spring and fall of 2019.
“Golf is an individual sport, so playing with a team is very fun,” Cui said. “I also thought it would be fun to play with my friends (at Crystal Springs).”
Cui also understands the life skills he can learn as part of a team and its the lessons he has learned in golf that Cui hopes he take with him into the future — whether its in golf or some other endeavor.
“I think being a pro golfer would be great, but even if I don’t choose to be something in the golf area, I still want to be one of the best in whatever I do.”