By Brian Harper, KSU Sports Information
Four-year-old Ket Preamchuen’s questions fell on receptive ears one day in the shadows of a mango grove.
“What is that? Can you teach me?” Ket quizzed her father as he practiced golf in the shade of one of those trees.
Her father, Chaiwatana, began teaching her how to swing a golf club at that early age, and her continued interest led to the two practicing together every day. What began as a relentless curiosity grew into a passion for the game of golf as she tagged along side her father to the nearby golf course. They played 18 holes once a week, just two years after she received her father’s first swing lessons. She continued to develop in the sport, and it wasn’t long before younger sister Kaew’s curiosity began to blossom.
“Where do they go all the time?” six-year old Kaew would ask her mother. She certainly did not want to miss out on the excitement her older sister was having, so she started to tag along with Ket and father to the golf course. At that point Kaew wasn’t really interested in golf; she just wanted to be with her sister and travel.
“When we practiced, I wanted to quit, so my dad made me stay home,” says Kaew. “But when the tournaments came around, I wanted to play,” she laughingly admits about her motivation (or lack of it) to practice with her father every week.
Chaiwatana Preamchuen began to enroll his two daughters in golf tournaments with a goal of winning scholarships. That would enable them to continue to play in Thailand. The Mercedes Benz tournaments in which they played awarded the winner full scholarships to play in tournaments abroad, and those eventually opened many doors for the sisters.
Their first tournament was in 2001 in Singapore. Ket and Kaew share a laugh, remembering their father’s advice to lean and turn with the plane and to sharply look out the window as it left the runway. Having fun on the plane ride was “okay,” but once the wheels touched down it was all business. The duo was successful in the tournament, opening the door for Ket and Kaew to play in the next tournament in Stone Mountain, Ga.
In 2006 two spots were open for the Thai National Team, and Ket remembers the tension of their situation. “On the last day of the three-day tournament, I was down by three and Kaew was leading. On the last hole, she was even and I was three-under-par, so if she made bogey I would win.” However, circumstances changed when Kaew couldn’t birdie, so their dad told her to chip it in.
“I chipped it in, and we tied,” Kaew says with a smile. Ket and Kaew landed a position on the National Team together in their age divisions, and earned them recognition as young golfers with a promising future.
“Coming to the U.S. was interesting,” Ket smiles, “Everyone speaks English and it is all widely spread.” They explain that many things are different here, including methods of transportation. “In Thailand we have car, bus, motor bike, Sky Tran, and above and underground trains.” Aside from the transportation, the sisters say that golf is also more readily accessible. “In Thailand, even as a member they require a fee every time they play. Unfortunately we were not so well off that we could golf whenever we wanted.”
The Preamcheuns' father owned a gas station in Thailand, and during difficult economic times the station went under and Mr. Preamchuen was left without a job. Their mother, Busaba, owns a business selling bags from her brother in Hong Kong. While income is steady, they still needed more revenue to support their family.
“He tried to find a job related to us and around our schedule,” Ket further elaborates on their father’s search for a job. He was constantly taking them to practices and tournaments, so he needed a job to match their demanding routines.
“He trained himself to be a rules official,” Ket says. It was a simple choice for Mr. Preamchuen to be involved with golf while his daughters continued to play. This decision allowed him to earn the money to keep them in tournaments and to travel with them. This opportunity also gave the girls a better insight into the game and all that it entails, including the behind-the-scenes preliminary work of setting up the golf courses, which was as a part of his job responsibilities.
When asked how often they speak to their father, the girls look at each other and respond, “Every day and every night,” Kaew says. “He is very close to us, and misses us so much,” Ket adds. Currently the siblings only get to see their father once a year when he travels with the Junior Thai Team to Jacksonville, Fla., for a tournament.
Their family has shaped their lives in many ways. They have an aunt who lives in Charleston, N.C., along with a family friend that originally suggested studying abroad. That notion immediately intrigued Ket, and so she began to discover what that entailed. “I had to learn English, take the SAT and build a resume,” she says. Ket checked off her list of requirements after many grueling hours of work and arrived in Georgia in 2009. Kaew had to go through the same process when she came in 2011. A turbulent task for each, but being in the U.S. has changed the Preamchuens’ lives and given them a chance to choose the path they want to pursue for the future.
Ket is studying Sports Management with a concentration in marketing. She ultimately wants to work with the German soccer team in hopes of discovering the intricacies of what has made the team so successful. Germany holds a special place in Ket’s heart because it is where her parents met. Their parents worked and studied in Germany for more than 13 years. While the sisters are 50 percent Chinese, 25 percent Thai and 25 percent Cambodian, they still have a passion for speaking German. When they were young, their mother would teach them small bits of German, and Ket has continued to study the German language.
After earning her KSU degree, Ket simply describes her future plans as, “to stay here and try to turn pro. That is my dream and my dad’s dream for me.” Kaew, on the other hand, laughs and says, “I’m different, I want to study. I don’t want to go pro. I want to learn how to direct and produce movies and work in drama.” But like any freshman, those goals are subject to change.
While they are very different, Ket and Kaew both traveled the same difficult path to reach their American destination. When asked about their journey and the tribulations they faced, Ket’s answer is very clear. ”None of this could have happened without our parents. They have been very supportive and have helped with every decision we’ve made,” she says. “Kennesaw State has been a home for me and my sister and we only hope to make the school as proud of us as we are of it.”
Between the two, no Kennesaw State record is safe. Ket already holds the lowest 18, 36 and 54-hole tournament record as well as the lowest season stroke average. Kaew has already one top-10 finish and an Atlantic Sun Conference Golfer of the Week honor to her credit. The two have received a multitude of accolades in golf, and while the two may have diverse career paths, their goal on April 9-11 is the same. The two sisters are enthusiastic and eager to bring KSU their first ever A-Sun Championship.
The event begins on Apr. 9, and will be played at the Venetian Bay Golf Club in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. For updates on the Championship, get live statistical updates from Golfstat.com, or you can follow the Owls and the A-Sun on Twitter, @KSUOwlsWmnsGolf and @AtlanticSun, on Facebook on the A-Sun Women’s Golf Championship site.