MIDLOTHIAN — Much in the way the classic phrase "Bazinga," coined by "Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons, swept across TV Land like a hilarious wave, Midlothian's Asian-American star brought the Panthers to the promised land of high school golf.
Jasmine Zhang, entrenched as the No. 10 golfer in the standings after one day of play Monday at Wolfdancer Golf Club in Bastrop, Texas, quietly became one of the best female golfers the city has ever seen.
And to the delight of her mother Karen Zhang, she may be a course to be on par with her legendary coach.
"We are excited and happy. We know she wants — how do I say — to go to state. This is the first time she's made it there. She's loved golf since she was in junior high school but [her father and me] think she made her biggest improvement after she met Laura (Hargrove)," Karen said, her thick Chinese accent pairing words together like a rhythmic melody. "I'm glad all the hard work she's put into this is paying off. A lot of long hours, late nights and early practices."
"It was actually my dad that got me into the sport. I watched him in junior high school," Jasmine added, jotting down tallies oh her 13-year-old sister Tiffany's scorecard. "I thought it would be cool to try at first and then I kind of fell in love with it. I love the grind, the practices and the mental aspect of golf. It's a thinking woman's game and you've got to be able to play your chess pieces the right ways to win."
To reach the state tournament, Zhang shot a two-day score of 166 at Fossil Creek Golf Club on Feb. 17 and a fourth place 161 during the UIL District 10-5A Championship. During the regional tournament, she was a stroke away from claiming a championship — one of the first since Hargrove swung a 9-iron in Midlothian.
With enough fine-tuning and effort, Hargrove said Jasmine could make a seamless jump into collegiate golf and possibly beyond.
Hargrove knows well the caliber of golfer needed to make the jump from run-of-the-mill high school golfer to state tournament qualifier to Ladies Professional Golf Association mainstay. As a Midlothian Lady Panther between 1999 and 2003, she went to state four consecutive years — finishing third as a freshman, second in both her sophomore and junior seasons and winning the title as a senior.
The 2015 Midlothian ISD Hall of Famer also nearly made the jump from collegiate to professional golf if not for crucial life changes — three bouncing bundles of joy.
"She's got determination and a competitor's mentality. The minute she steps onto a course her demeanor changes," said Laura Hargrove, the first-year head golf coach at Midlothian High School, about her junior standout. "She's there to win not to show up and play. When you gauge high school players, you find all different types. There are ones that want to play because it's fun and it gives them a chance to be part of a team and some that want to excel in high school golf and not want to play after. There are a few like Jasmine that want to use high school as a stepping stone to the next level to see what the limits of their talent lie and how far it can take them."
While Hargrove's dreams of joining the LPGA tour were sidelined because of the birth of her first, second and third child and then changed to bringing the gift of golf to others because of her dedication as a mother, she said Jasmine's talent, drive and moxie give her the tools to reach the LPGA.
The Lady Panthers aren't the only students of the game she's shaped since her graduation from MHS. She spent time as a private coach, mentoring young golfers in the art of the golden swing and picture-perfect putt.
"I think she has the potential to play at the highest level, but it's always up to the golfer to decide how far they can go," Hargrove said. "What makes her able to play at that level is hard work. Ultimately, she has the natural ability to play the game and has a naturally gifted swing, but she's got a nature that she's going to work hard at anything she does. That combination gives her a potential to be great. It's a whole new ballgame at the LPGA Tour. You have to bring your best game every single day. There are no off days when you're playing week after week, though."
The average golfer doesn't usually make the pro tour and based on averages, chances aren't good for anyone that sees the difficulty of the sport at a glass-half-empty glance.
The difference between making legitimate money as a pro and barely breaking even is divided by a gap and only bridged by the most talented. According to the current LPGA leaderboard money list, No. 1 golfer, So Yeon Yu from Japan, has earned $885,000 in seven events.
No. 141 golfer, Kelly Shon from America, has made $5,956 in seven events.
Beyond the aesthetics, though, lies a drive that was born from a pair of parents — both highly educated — that immigrated from China for family, college and better opportunities in the United States. Karen, a kindergarten teacher, and her husband moved to America in 1987 from the China's Yu Jin Province for their piece of the "American Dream."
Jasmine, the more outgoing of the two, and Tiffany, who may surpass her sister in time, are extensions of that dream. In many ways, Karen said, they are a physical representation of the good fortune — or luck — they've experienced while within U.S. borders.
In Chinese, the American phrase good luck is translated into Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn. Jasmine, though, rarely bends her fate on luck.
"It's you against the course," she said, smiling. "That's the beauty of this sport. Nothing can define how you begin and finish a tournament that's not on the course. There's no questionable balls and strikes like in baseball or sidelines like in football. It's you and 18 holes. If you want to win, you can shape your own destiny with enough hard work and dedication."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.