Nestled in a back corner of Beaumont’s Oak Valley Country Club is the Jerry Wong Golf Academy. Familiar to few locally, the golf academy draws students from around the world thanks to a program that has helped lead several students to success in the worlds of college and professional golf.
The program is led by Jerry Wong, originally from Taiwan, who has been teaching golf since the 1990s and teaching in Beaumont since 2000.
Wong — who, in his youth, had aspirations to play professional golf himself — is driven to help others achieve the dream he could not.
“I tried to play professionally for two to three years and found out it’s a very difficult career. I wasn’t ready for it, but through the experience I picked up a lot of knowledge and ideas,” Wong said. “I thought, ‘I cannot do it, but I’m going to try and help somebody accomplish that — to capitalize on what I have learned.'”
Since starting the academy Wong has built the business by getting students through word-of-mouth recommendations. He has not done much marketing, which is why the school is not well known locally, Wong said.
In teaching youth — students are ages 10 to college age — Wong also aims to help his students to leverage their passion and skills in golf into college and other career opportunities.
“Most of them, their first goal is to play college golf and, depending on how well they progress, if they feel they can, pursue their professional dream they will. All of them have that professional dream, but they know professional is hard and not everyone can make it,” Wong said. “If they can’t make that professional dream they can get to college, which can help them find themselves and other options for their future.”
This strategy has paid off for the academy’s students with several graduates from Ivy League universities and most others earning full golf scholarships.
“It helps them financially and they get to keep on exploring their golf potential, because when you’re on a golf team you get a lot of equipment, training, traveling and tuition,” Wong said of earning a golf scholarship. “It’s a good deal for the kids.”
A couple of standouts include Henry Liaw, winner of the 2004 PAC-10 team championship as a University of Arizona freshman, and Cynthia Lu, winner of the individual and team PAC-12 championships for the University of Oregon in 2022.
It was while Liaw was a student at Jerry Wong Academy that former President Bill Clinton visited Oak Valley to play with him.
Liaw has since become general manager at Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon, also in Beaumont.
Wong and his staff of five to six instructors teach golf with a focus on developing the individual and teaching them to manage the mental challenges of golf and competing.
Besides teaching the fundamental golf skills, Wong focuses on developing his students’ mental strength, their processing of game information and challenges and the ability to keep competitive focus.
“It’s critical because players run into pressure situations,” Wong said.
These are some of the lessons 17-year-old Jenchie (Jerry) Huang values most, learning to trust what you have learned and accomplished in practice and not to overthink the challenges faced during tournaments.
Huang, who is from Taiwan, first discovered golf while riding bicycles with his father and seeing a golf course. He has been playing golf for nine years and hopes to become a professional. He enjoys learning at Jerry Wong Academy where he says the coaches teach him a lot and take care of him just like he was at home.
Tommy Contreras, whose backyard overlooks the golf club and Wong’s academy, has gotten to know and has grown to admire Wong and his students “over the fence.”
“When I first met Jerry, it amazed me the dedication he had to the children. Seeing these young individuals excel from across the fence,” Contreras said. “So many times we look to the distance for growth, to achieve what we want to achieve and yet here’s an academy in our own backyard that could help a lot of young individuals in our own community.”
“These young individuals come from all over the world and are achieving great feats with great humility,” Contreras said of the players.
Through a mutual respect, Wong has invited Contreras to mentor the students — most of whom are living far from home and in a foreign country while at the academy. He helps guide them through cultural challenges and other lessons that youth can benefit from learning from older generations.
“There’s a language barrier sometimes, but it’s amazing what these children do to get through that. They find a way to communicate. So I took it upon myself to let them know, ‘Even though you’re in a foreign country away from home there’s people here who respect you,'” said Contreras.
“It makes me feel good knowing that when I look out from my backyard it’s not just a golf course,” Contreras added.