Hailing from the golf Mecca of Pinehurst, NC, Eric Bae was destined to play golf. His older sister, Sarah, led the way in playing for an in-state university, playing at both High Point and NC State. In high school, Bae made his presence known. The 2015 North Carolina 4A state champion and 2016 4A runner-up, he led Pinecrest High School to three team state championships. In 2015, Bae was named the Carolinas Golf Association junior player of the year while reaching match play at both the 2014 and 2015 U.S. Junior Tournament.
Bae was named to the PING All-East Team as a freshman, playing in 10 events with a stroke average of 72.70. During his freshman year, he had two top-five finishes, had five top-20 finishes, including a tie for 18th at the ACC Championship, and qualified for the 2017 U.S. Amateur.
As a sophomore, he played in 12 events with a stroke average of 72.69, garnering two top-10 finishes. Bae tallied a season-best runner-up finish at the Stitch Intercollegiate, shooting a career-best 64 in the final round. Over the season, he had 18 rounds at par or better. Now, as a junior, Bae looks to return to the course to help bolster a strong Wake Forest roster.
In the few fall events, Bae looked stellar, capturing his first individual title ever at the Steelwood Collegiate Invitational, leading the Deacons to the team title in the process. Additionally, Bae was named the No. 10 player on the United States list of the fall Arnold Palmer Cup rankings.
Samantha Wexler: Walk me through last year’s season; how did the team feel about it, and what did you all take away to build on?
Eric Bae: Last year, we had a very solid year during the regular season, but at the end of it, we did not make it to nationals, which was very disappointing for everyone, especially since we were a team that was very capable to make it to nationals and compete very well there. So after that, I think that everyone had to take a step back and think of what we had to do to make it through regionals.
SW: All of the golf facilities are definitely top notch; how will those help with both the future and the present of Wake Forest golf?
EB: Having a top-notch practice facility that is on campus definitely helps a lot, given that we are able to work on all aspects of our games efficiently. There are definitely the tools to improve as a player consistently and become a better team.
For the future, I can only see it getting better. We are adding in the putt view, a top-notch synthetic putting green for the winter, and the condition of the golf center is getting better from year to year. I expect the players to come after I graduate to get better from the time they enter.
SW: What newcomers are particularly making a splash this year, and how are they contributing to all sides of the team?
EB: Eugenio and Alex came into the team as top-50 amateurs in the world. They brought in a lot of competition and also became a threat to everyone who were stable names in the travel line-up. This made everyone sharpen their games, and we are playing better as a team as a result of that. All the golf freshmen, including Jared, bring individual qualities to the team. They fit in very well and the team chemistry is good which I think will be good in the long run.
SW: There has been a very high standard of play under this coaching staff; what in particular do they bring to the program to continue to compete in the ACC?
EB: The coaches bring experience that most of the other teams do not have. Coach Haas has coached many great players and knows what it takes to be a successful team. Both coaches, Aaron O’Callaghan and Jerry Haas, also know how to develop raw talent of the players they recruit too. I believe that if you ask any of the player that have played under them, that they have improved significantly because of them.
SW: The team obviously lost some great players after last season and had great players come in as well. Can you speak to what it took to develop this year’s team chemistry to continue the success?
EB: Losing Will Zalatoris and Paul Mcbride definitely hurt a bit, given that they were some of the best college players and very talented. But, I believe that losing them also made other improve and gave others the chance to prove themselves as well. We then gained Alex and Eugenio, who are great players themselves, and in a team sense, I feel as if we are just as good or even better than we were last year. It didn’t take much to develop team chemistry this year. Everyone is very nice and easy to get along with so team chemistry has not been an issue at all.
SW: How has spring practice gone so far, and what are you looking forward to as the season progresses?
EB: Spring practices have been a bit tough due to the inclement weather, but we have an indoor facility, so we should still be able to keep our game sharp but nothing is like practice and playing outside. What I am looking forward to in the spring? Just competing, I haven’t playing any tournaments since the end of the last tournament, and I’ve been itching to get back to tournament form.
SW: What’s your favorite Wake Forest golf memory so far?
EB: My favorite memory is playing my first college event as a freshmen because I was not sure if I was good enough to make the travel lineup, much less play well. I think that tournament gave me confidence to know I can compete with these guys.