Studying Astrophysics at the Home of Golf

Zach Lawton
Vanessa Chychrun is not only an accomplished golfer, Country Day School Class of 2020 Alumna and Aurora resident, but now a first year student studying Astrophysics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Golfers won’t be surprised to learn that continuing her education at “The Home of Golf” played a massive role in her decision to attend.
The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland is the oldest golf course in the world, with the first documented rounds dating back to 1552. It has hosted The Open Championship 29 times, and the Women’s British Open twice. The University was established 139 years before it, and the two often work together in education and sport, even rewarding honorary degrees to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. The history is not lost on Vanessa, “to walk up the same 18th hole where Tiger Woods walked, and to cross the same Swilcan Bridge, was very exciting.”

Playing Links Golf for your first time can be intimidating, let alone at St. Andrews. This style of golf is known for howling winds, undulating fairways, lack of trees, thick and unforgiving rough and famous “pot bunkers” like the Road Hole Bunker on the 17th hole.

While Vanessa’s coaches warned she wouldn’t play well initially, she still feels she under-estimated the challenge. “I played terribly. I was hitting good shots but they were too high so the wind took them. It took a while to learn how to ‘flight’ the ball down (lower trajectory), to hit the front of the greens and get the ball to run up to the hole, because nothing sticks on the green.” This change in play meant Vanessa had to change her entire approach to the game, including her yardages, and to expect less distance from her clubs. Vanessa describes this style of golf course this way. “Links golf is simply - you play the way the land as it naturally goes. “It’s not engineered to be a golf course, it just can be a golf course, as opposed to forcing the land to be a golf course, which I’m used to at home.” Despite these challenges, Vanessa still managed to card a 75 on her first attempt at The Old Course, including a -2 front nine.

Being a member of the University of St. Andrews Women’s Golf Team means she’ll be competing against other schools in the British Universities and College Sport competition. This will include trips to other famous Scottish courses like Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

Despite having her first year disrupted by COVID-19, Vanessa is excited for her upcoming experiences in the collegiate golf world. Not only will she be representing her school at prestigious courses, she will also be a student at St. Andrews when The Open returns in 2022, and the Ladies British Open in 2024.

As for Vanessa’s tips for escaping the famed “pot bunkers” located throughout Britain? She offered this advice for those who might find themself in one. “The key is to put the ball really far ahead in your stance, open your club face and bury your feet. Dig in, swing, and at contact be sure to flip you wrists for that extra kick.”

Despite the zero degree weather in Northern Scotland, the first year student still gets out three or four times a week to enjoy the game she loves so much.

Athleticism runs in the Chychrun family as Vanessa's younger sister, Olivia, just verbally committed to play D1 beach volleyball at University of Alabama Birmingham and is currently playing in Florida. Both sisters were on Team Ontario for their respective sports last year and their cousin, Jakob Chychrun ’16, plays for the Arizona Coyotes.

Land Acknowledgment

The Country Day School wishes to recognize and acknowledge the land on which the school operates. Our nearest Indigenous Nations are now the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Chippewas of Georgina Island. The Dish with One Spoon Wampum covenant is often cited as an example of the shared responsibility for caring for these lands among the Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples who would call these their traditional territories. CDS respects the relationship with these lands and recognizes that our connection to this land can be strengthened by our continued relationship with all First Nations, by acknowledging our shared responsibility to respect and care for the land and waters for future generations.

School Information

13415 Dufferin Street King, Ontario L7B 1K5 
(905) 833-1220

Founded in 1972, The Country Day School is a co-educational private school offering programs in JK-12 and located on 100 acres north of Toronto in King.