Highlander Highlight: Jakeishya Le, Women’s Golf

Video Star — How YouTube helped turn this UCR golfer into a champion

By Omar Shamout

Photo by Mary Ritchie

Jakeishya Le isn’t the first golfer to have her father as a coach.

But she might be the only one — and perhaps one of the best — whose father doesn’t know how to play.

“He actually doesn’t golf,” said the 20-year-old junior from Santa Ana about her dad, Christopher, 58. “He just looks at YouTube videos and tries to tell me what looks right.”

And if his daughter’s performance in high school and college is any indication, Christopher was right more often than not.

Jakeishya helped lead Mater Dei High School to an undefeated record and two California Interscholastic Federation team championships during her four-year tenure. She also won the individual Trinity League title her senior year, among other honors.

Jakeishya was named Big West Women’s Golf Co-Freshman of the Year in her first season at UC Riverside and First Team All-Conference, igniting the Highlanders to a conference championship and NCAA Regional berth.

She broke UCR’s single-season scoring record with a 73.59 average over 12 events in the 2016–17 season, becoming the second UCR golfer ever to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Regionals, held that year in Lubbock, Texas.

“I had a lot of fun even though I missed my teammates,” Jakeishya recalled about the trip. “They had really good ribs there,” she added.

Yet there was ample heartbreak to go along with the triumphs of her sophomore season, with both Jakeishya and the team missing out on conference titles by a single stroke.

“I could let it haunt me, but it motivates me to want to practice, to push me to go put the extra hour in,” Jakeishya said. “I’m trying to lower my average to under par.”

Photo by Mary Ritchie

And her dad will always be there to help, not only with advice from YouTube videos — mostly those posted by the Golf Channel — but also with an analysis of her swing based on his own videos of Jakeishya on the links.

“He’ll play it in slow motion, do a freeze frame, and tell me what I need to do,” she said. “He’s so excited to help me. I’m really grateful for him.”

Jakeishya’s mom Annie, 55, also helps her daughter in the best way she knows how: ensuring she’s getting enough to eat.

“She’ll cut me fruit so that I can eat it on the course,” Jakeishya said, laughing. “She doesn’t know that much about golf, she just cares about my well-being.”

When it came time to choose a college, Jakeishya honed in on UCR right away because of its proximity to her family, its academics, and — last but not least — women’s golf coach Mary Ritchie, who made an immediate impact on the budding star.

“She really sold me on the program,” Jakeishya said. “She tries to make me a more well-rounded person, not just in golf, but in school.”

A psychology major, Jakeishya said she particularly enjoys learning about child development and the “different reasons why people turn out the way they do.” That’s a knowledge base that also comes in handy while playing golf.

“It’s taught me how to really just relax when I need to, calm myself down, and be really aware of my emotions,” she said.

Jakeishya will put those skills to use when the team’s season resumes in February.

“We have so much talent this year it would be a waste not to win,” Jakeishya said. “I just want another chance at regionals.”

Another motivating factor? The player with the lowest score on the team gets to pick the dinner spot after each tournament. And that means a trip to Raising Cane’s on Magnolia Boulevard when Jakeishya comes out on top.

“I love, love, love chicken nuggets,” she said.