Yupha Muzyka (Alvernia Athletics photo)
Yupha Muzyka likes to grow organic tomatoes in her garden for Alvernia head coach Tom O’Connell. It’s one of a million little ways Muzyka is unlike most college golfers. For starters, she lives at home with her husband and two kids and has a garden. She’s also 39.
Sometimes, Muzyka will jokingly ask O’Connell why he likes to tell her age to opponents.
“Because it’s fun when you beat them,” O’Connell responds.
Alvernia sophomore McKylie Boreman only found out Muzyka’s real age a few weeks ago. Like most, Boreman was blown away.
“She makes it look effortless,” said Boreman of Muzyka’s ability to blend in among players 20 years younger.
Alvernia University is a Division III Catholic school in Reading, Pennsylvania. Muzyka’s journey there actually begins in Thailand, where she was born, and moves to Singapore, where she met future husband Steve while visiting her sister.
Muzyka emigrated to America not long after high school and was introduced to golf by Steve, a 12-handicapper who works as an engineer. They started out in miniature golf and then moved to Pleasant Hill Golf Course in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, a beginner-friendly track that no longer operates.
“He put a club in my hand, showed me how to swing,” said Muzyka. “I took my first shot at it, and I outdrove him. He said, ‘Oh, OK.’ ”
A year, later Steve joked that he’d created a monster. Muzyka beat him every time the couple teed it up.
Yupha Muzyka with daughters Allison and Alexis
Muzyka always intended to go back to school, and she did, not long after coming to the U.S. But she became deeply frustrated at a community college when her English wasn’t proficient enough to understand the professor. She decided to take a break, but then became pregnant with Alexis, who just turned 16, and wound up taking an even longer break. Her youngest daughter, Allison, is now in the seventh grade.
As the girls grew older, Muzyka thought it was time to go back to school to finally get that degree in business. In time, she found herself in the admissions office at Alvernia filling out an application form.
When she skipped the line asking if there was an interest in playing sports, Steve told her to go back and check yes.
“I said no, I’m too old,” she recalled.
As the admission counselor read over the form, he asked about Muzyka’s interest in playing a sport. Steve took the opportunity to brag on his wife’s amateur career, rattling off her four county championship titles and Women’s Central Penn Golf Association crown.
By the time Muzyka got home, O’Connell was on the other end of her phone line, calling from his beach vacation.
“I’m kind of too old to be a college athlete, aren’t I?” she asked.
Now in her fourth year on the Alvernia team, Muzyka is four classes away from earning her MBA and works as a graduate assistant in the school’s business financial trading lab. She speaks three languages and carries a 3.9 GPA.
“She’s never missed a match,” said O’Connell. “She can’t get enough of it.”
Muzyka went into the whole thing worried that she’d feel like a third wheel. But that never happened. A tireless worker who, according to O’Connell, is in better shape than anyone on the team, Muzyka won two of the first three events she ever played in college and was Middle Atlantic Conference First-Team All-Conference as a freshman.
Boreman will ask Muzyka about practice drills and classes. Muzyka, who is fully engaged in van conversations, even has a TikTok account. If, on occasion, something gets lost in translation, Muzyka’s sense of humor prevails.
“I wouldn’t even say she acts like a mom to the team,” said Boreman. “She’s literally one of us.”
Last fall, Alvernia won four consecutive events with Muzyka claiming the title in the last tournament of the semester for her sixth career victory. Muzyka hopes her final spring season at Alvernia will be her most consistent.
This year’s Middle Atlantic Conference Championship is at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, a course she knows well. She’d like to break 75 for both rounds. High standards to the finish.
“It worked out better than I ever could’ve imagined,” said O’Connell.
Muzyka would have to agree.
by Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek