Erica Han has come a long way in her golf career in more ways than one.
For starters, she didn’t even pick up the sport in the United States. She started playing halfway around the world on summer break when she was 10.
“I would go back to China for the entire three months of summer break to visit my mom’s side of the family,” Han recalls.
Han made a trip with her aunt to a driving range and tried out golf and fell in love with the sport right away.
“I started hitting some balls and I was just hooked,” Han said. “I’ve been stuck with it ever since and I love it.”
Han continued playing golf back home in Mt. Laurel and has transformed into one of the best girls’ golfers in South Jersey.
Han enters her senior season for the Lenape High School golf team with an impressive resume. She is the three-time girls’ individual champion of the prestigious Carl Arena Tournament, the 2014 champion of the South Jersey Ladies’ Invitational and twice a top-20 finisher at the NJSIAA girls’ Tournament of Champions.
Han has also been one of Lenape’s key cogs the last few years despite competing on a predominantly boys team. Like most South Jersey high schools, Lenape does not have a girls’ golf team. With scores in boys’ golfer typically much lower than in the girls’ game, Han knew she would have to prove herself from the beginning.
“Coming into my freshman year, I was very nervous competing with the guys,” Han said. “I knew I would have to play a lot better than them to gain their respect.”
Han proved she belonged right away. She made varsity as a freshman and has been in the Indians’ starting lineup every year.
Han had a breakout season during her sophomore year in 2014. She won the South Jersey Ladies Invitational and qualified for the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, where she shot a 1-under-par 71 to finish as the second best female golf in the state.
Han also outscores many of the boys golfers in the area. At last year’s Carl Arena Tournament, Han not only won her third straight girls’ individual title, her score of 77 was better than all but five boys on the course.
Han has gone through her high school career on a mission to prove girls can golf just as well as boys can.
“I just want to prove them wrong,” Han says of the naysayers. “It gives me motivation and the extra push I need to better my game.”
This year, Han is hoping to add to her already prestigious resume. She has her eye on being a four-time Carl Arena Tournament winner and also regaining the South Jersey Ladies Invitational title after finishing in second place last year to Moorestown’s Aine Filler.
Han also hopes to return to Tournament of Champions and contend for a top-10 place. Last year, she finished in 14th place after shooting a 79.
“I was a little disappointed in myself,” Han said of last season’s TOC performance. “I wasn’t really focused. I could have played a lot better and I really should have.”
“I have a certain score that I want to shoot this year,” she added. “I hope that score will place me in the top-five. I do wish to win states, but I’ve seen how competitive it is, especially in the North Jersey region.”
Han will continue her career next year at Towson University after signing on with the school in February. She chose the school because of its competitive golf team and for its physician’s assistant graduate program, which she hopes to enroll in after getting her bachelor’s degree.
However, Han still has a couple months of high school golf remaining. In that time, she hopes to be an inspiration for other young girls to try out for high school golf. Only two schools in South Jersey, Moorestown and Cumberland high schools, have full girls teams, and only a few others have girls in their varsity lineup.
“Since I’ve done it and people can look up to me, it helps them ease their nerves a little bit,” Han said.
“I want to encourage more girls to play. It’s really unfortunate not to see a lot of girls, especially in South Jersey.”