A native of the Philippines, senior men’s golfer Weiwei Gao elected to stay stateside during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been busy practicing his game and finding some new interests, including Salsa dancing.
Q: Did you watch the charity match and what did you think of the format? Did it sort of remind you of college golf. The pros in shorts carrying their own bags, not huge galleries.
Gao: I have! The format is really interesting! It really did remind me of college golf! To see the pros carry their own bags is actually really cool! It gave me a completely different vibe just watching it.
Q: Have you been watching the PGA Tour events and what do you think of the level of play and the fact there are no fans on the course?
Gao: I am really surprised with the level of play! Players on tour were able to still play at a high level despite the pandemic. It is really odd to not see any fans on the course. Especially in a PGA Tour event where fans would clap and cheer when somebody hits a good shot. Watching them play without thousands of fans on the course almost reminds me of amateur/college events where there aren’t as many fans.
Q: You did not return to the Philippines. What went into that decision and are you glad you stayed.
Gao: My family and I discussed about this over the phone and we came into conclusion that it is best for me to stay here because we feel that air travel isn’t the safest at these times. The flight to the Philippines usually involves multiple stops and the probability of me getting the virus gets significantly higher because of the long travel time. It would take almost 24 hours to arrive in the Philippines from Dulles.
Q: When you learned former UVA All-American Denny McCarthy tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw from a couple of events to self-quarantine, how did you process that?
Gao: It took me a while to process it because I was really shocked. Our team discussed it and we talked about how we as a team should be really cautious if we were to go back this fall. But we are all glad that Denny is doing well.
Q: Until it was overturned, how concerned were you about the proposal to send home international college students if their schools only featured online learning?
Gao: I was really concerned by the decision to send international students back to their home country if schools go online only. There are multiple reasons why I think it is a horrible idea. One of which is the different time zones, I don’t think it would be fair for international students to take classes back home where it is 3 a.m. while people who are in the US would take it at 3 p.m. International students would also have to pay their apartment leases/health insurance which possibly was signed before this proposal was even brought forward. So if this proposal were to get approved, international students would have to pay for these expenses even if they aren’t in the U.S. and these expenses are not cheap. The final, out of many reasons, why it is not a good proposal is because some countries do not have flights back. So even if international students wanted to go back to their home country, they wouldn’t be able to. How will that be handled?
Q: Have you found any amateur events to compete in this summer?
Gao: I have but some events are challenging to register for because you have to be a state resident to be able to play.
Q: What are you doing to practice and keep your game sharp while not competing in tournaments?
Gao: I’ve been going to the driving range and practicing with the Trackman. Looking at the numbers once in a while really helps me stay sharp and focus on what I have to work on.
Q: How are you dealing with cabin fever. What are some things you are doing now that you don’t normally do to fill your time?
Gao: I’ve actually been to humpback rocks to hike. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while but couldn’t because I didn’t really have any free time. I also started cooking and experimenting with different spices!
Q: Do you have a new guilty pleasure?
Gao: Falling asleep while the TV is still on has been a problem lately.
Q: What’s something new you have learned to do during the self-quarantine?
Gao: I’ve actually learned how to Salsa. My girlfriend has been teaching me and it’s really fun!
Q: Have you experimented with cooking? Any successes?
Gao: Yes I have! The amount of steaks I cooked is absurd! I was able to recreate my favorite childhood dish which is the yakiniku. Yakiniku is Japanese BBQ and just thinking of it makes my mouth water.
Q: Have you binge watched or read anything you’d like to share?
Gao: I binge watched tiger king on Netflix! I really want a tiger.
Q: How often do you communicate with your teammates now?
Gao: We communicate regularly to check in with each other. We talk about issues that are currently happening and we are there for each other which is awesome!
Q: How do you keep yourself motivated with such a disruption in your schedule?
Gao: I keep telling myself, if you are practicing and working out right now during these times while others aren’t you have the advantage when everything starts goes back to normal
Q: How did on-line classes go? Anything in particular you found interesting about the process?
Gao: I took social statistics in session 1 of summer classes and I learned a lot of interesting things. Basically, the stats we see now in the news usually have a hidden variable that could impact the stats but aren’t usually talked about. so take what you’re currently reading with a grain of salt
Q: What do you miss most about golf right now?
Gao: I miss the adrenaline and making birdies in tournaments.
Q: How excited are you to get back to Cville and to play Birdwood when it reopens this summer?
Gao: I am really excited! Its been awhile since the team played in Birdwood and i am really looking forward to all the improvements that are being made in the course!
Q: Finally, Weiwei. Is there a meaning behind the name. It has a Chinese origin meaning laughter and happiness according to Google.
Gao: Hahaha. That’s interesting! I unfortunately do not really know the meaning of my name. I asked my dad about it a while back and he said it means “Only” but he doesn’t really know the meaning of it as well because my grandparents named me. I did a little digging on the meaning of my name and I found that the first “Wei” which is written 维 in Chinese means “To preserve” and the second “Wei” which is written 玮 means “the precious” so if you put that together, it is “To preserve the precious”. But I would honestly take Laughter and Happiness because that is the kind of attitude I want on the golf course.