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  • Greg Lederer

Paek Exceeded Her Expectations In Becoming The First State Champ For CHS Girls' Golf

Juyeon Paek enjoyed a historic first season with Cheshire girls' golf. Submitted photo.

by Greg Lederer

Cheshire Sports Media

When moving from Chappaqua, New York to Connecticut last year, Juyeon (Julia) Paek didn’t know what to expect as a sophomore at Cheshire High School. While many new students had started classes on the first day, she didn’t arrive until mid November.

“I was very nervous because I didn’t know anybody from Connecticut. It was in the middle of the school year, so I had to adjust to something new,” recalled Paek, who quickly felt a connection with Cheshire. “I liked how everybody got along really well and it was a nice community. I had a warm welcome. It was nice.”

Since she planned to play golf at CHS, Paek felt that the team helped in her transition to new surroundings.

“It was fun,” said Paek. “A lot of the girls tried to include me in stuff because I didn’t know anybody.”

Paek looked forward to competing with the Rams this year, but the spring season far exceeded her expectations. Not only did Paek earn the top spot on the team, but she also took home three championships.

By winning the Division I and State Open, Paek became Cheshire’s first golf state champion at both events.

“It was very surprising,” stated Paek. “I felt accomplished because it has never happened before. I was excited that my hard work had paid off.”

Dedication to her craft resulted in a big jump over her freshman season back home. As the number one player for Horace Greeley, Paek finished 11th overall (156) in the 2023 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championship.

“I think I had an average of 76 last year, but I had a lot of ups and downs,” recalled Paek. “I was pretty surprised (by my scores this year) because I had back pain over the winter. I was suffering from that all summer, as well, so I wasn’t expecting much.”

This spring, Paek was the medalist in all but one competition. For the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) Invitational Tournament, she came in third place at Grassy Hill Country Club in Orange.

Cheshire Head Coach John Williams quickly knew that Paek was a special talent after seeing her shoot a 35 in practice at Southington Country Club. On May 13 at the same course, she shot a season-low 31 to help CHS sweep St. Paul Catholic and Suffield.

“We had a tough season to start (weather-wise). It was rainy and windy,” recalled Williams, the 2024 Southern Connecticut Conference Coach of the Year. “Despite that, she was hovering at par and below. People were blown away.”

Paek raised her game even more during a historic post-season. First on May 30 at Silo Point Country Club in Southbury, she posted a 73 to win the SCC crown by 17 strokes.

“It was exhilarating because I didn’t know what to expect,” stated Paek, who also received SCC Player of the Year. "It was fun being in the moment and experiencing new stuff.”

Her performance propelled the Rams to a share of the team title (383) with Amity. Senior captain Sophia DelRosso (93) joined Paek on the All-SCC Team.

“It was great because I saw how hard they (the girls) worked during the season,” said Paek.

On June 3, Paek claimed the first D-I crown, posting a 66 (6 under par) at Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull. This time, she took first place by eight strokes.

“I was excited because it was one of my biggest tournaments of the season. I wanted to see how I would perform after all of those practices after school,” recalled Paek. “I enjoy playing in tournaments and facing other really skilled golfers. I like the pressure.”

In talking to people at Tashua Knolls, Williams hasn’t heard of a woman shooting a lower score there than what Paek did in the D-I event.

“It is hands down the best performance I’ve seen,” reflected Williams. “She is a special golfer and I’ve been lucky enough to have been there for some of her special moments.”

To end the 2024 season, Williams enjoyed being able to attend the State Open at Mohegan Sun Golf Course in Baltic. In recording a 71, she captured the championship by two strokes over Crosby senior Laniah Moffett.

“I was nervous about that one because it was a big competition,” said Paek. “I tried to end it well and finish it with pars and possibly a birdie.”

Along representing the Rams, Paek also had the opportunity to challenge herself in the Connecticut Women’s Open Tournament held May 28-29 at Madison Country Club. Facing off against competitors of all age, she came in 25th place (157).

“It was very nerve-wracking because there were professional golfers there,” stated Paek. “Even though I didn’t play my best, I’m glad that I got to learn from the other golfers.”

She appreciated that Williams allowed her to miss two matches, so that she could take part in the professional event.

“It was really easy,” said Paek, of working with Williams. “He was always there when I had questions. He was very supportive and interested in how I was doing even out of school.”

Following the spring season, Paek has set a goal of consistently hitting under par this summer. She has signed up for tournaments mostly in Connecticut and New York.

“I want to be the best version of myself as a golfer,” added Paek.

In moving to Connecticut, she has enjoyed seeing many new golf courses.

“I feel it is pretty straightforward,” said Paek, of playing at a club for the first time. “I look at a shot and think about which club would be best for the lie.”

Growing up, Paek tried out multiple sports, but none clicked for her like golf. She started playing at age 6 and then started attending tournaments at 9 or 10.

“I like how it (golf) is mental battle with yourself,” explained Paek. “It is not about the other players, but how you manage yourself and the course.”

She loves sharing the sport with her family. Her younger brother Justin will start his freshman year at CHS this fall and join the boys’ golf team in 2025.

Paek’s 8-year-old sister, Jamie, has also started playing golf.

“It is very heart-warming that I get to play with my siblings and bond with them,” stated Paek.

After graduating from high school in 2026, she wants to keep playing golf in college.

“I’ve started to send out emails to colleges and I’ll be talking to coaches this summer,” said Paek.

Williams feels that it is important for her to get stronger in preparation for the college level, but adds that she can already hit the ball over 220 yards.

“Her accuracy is beyond reproach. She hits the ball as straight as an arrow,” explained Williams. “She is an exceptional putter.”

On May 30 at Silo Point Country Club in Southbury, Juyeon Paek won the SCC crown by 17 strokes. Submitted photo.

Juyeon Park led CHS girls' golf to a share of the SCC team title with Amity. Submitted photo.

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