It’s not often that your rival one year becomes your teammate the next.
But that’s exactly what happened with Michelle Xie and Anna Zhou, the lone two freshmen on the Harvard women’s golf team. Both hail from Palo Alto, California, where Xie graduated from Palo Alto High and Zhou from Gunn High—two schools notorious in the San Francisco Bay area for their intense rivalry.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Xie and Zhou competed against each other quite often in high school at local and regional tournaments. Perhaps it’s a little more surprising, however, that the two, despite the competition and intense school rivalry, had already become close friends even before committing to play together for the Crimson.
“Anna and I have actually known each other well since she first moved to Palo Alto,” Xie said. “We’ve played many tournaments together, and she’s become a really good friend.”
Indeed, the connection between Xie and Zhou extends to even before high school; all the way back to elementary school, when Xie and Zhou used to practice at the same municipal golf course.
Over the next several years, their paths diverged: each found a different coach, a different style of play, and a different high school. But somehow this year they have converged, and once more they have found themselves practicing on the same golf course. This time, though, they are not rivals but teammates instead.
For both women, the experience has been a positive one.
“It’s really cool to be able to say that she’s my teammate,” Xie said. “Now I work with her, instead of competing against her…. [I] feel the team spirit so much more.”
Zhou echoed the sentiment.
“It’s nice to have Michelle on the team because there’s a sense of familiarity,” Zhou said. “When you’re first meeting the team, you don’t feel completely out of place. We can also relate to and rely on each other a lot especially since we’re both freshmen.”
Junior Anne Cheng, a mentor to the two women, recognizes the old competition between the newest members of the squad but emphasized their current status as teammates and friends.
“They might have been from rival high schools,” Cheng said. “And, because I think since golf is an individual sport, there’s always some sort of rivalry—but overall, they’re still teammates and good players.”
Cheng’s statement has a strong statistical backing—in high school, in fact, each ranked among the top 20 nationwide in their recruiting class. But college golf is a different world and something both players are still figuring out.
For Xie, the 16th-ranked golfer in the nation in the class of 2015, the most jarring transition between high school and college golf has been the step-up in academics at Harvard.
But Xie is no stranger to a high standard in the classroom. Last year, she was named a National Merit Finalist and attended Paly High, a school consistently ranked among the best public schools in California.
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