Jean Chua was athletic and adventurous growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Between the ages of 6 and 13, she excelled in swimming and table tennis, represented her school in softball and badminton, and became a member of the Malaysian national rhythmic gymnastics team.
At 14, Chua switched to golf because her parents worried about the strict dietary restrictions imposed upon gymnasts.
“I was used to training hard for gymnastics so golf worked for me,” said Chua, who was 15 when she won the Hong Kong MacGregor Junior Open in 2003.
She dated a soccer player but found romance difficult.
“It was hard to have a relationship because athletes travel constantly and there were issues with trust, exclusivity and different schedules,” she said.
In 2009, Chua, who is now 31, received a degree in mass communication, turned professional, spent eight months in Thailand training with Australian coach Shane Wilding, and won the Thai LPGA Open. After returning to North Carolina, she met Wesley Griswold, a Winston-Salem State University student on a golf scholarship, who was asked by a mutual friend to help her move to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“I watched Wes pick up my bed and carry it out to the truck,” she said of that spring day in 2011. “I liked his build and thought he was hot. We didn’t talk long but he seemed confident, almost arrogant, yet carried himself well.”
Though Griswold was attracted to her, it was the wrong time.
“I was newly single after a long romance and not looking to dive into a relationship,” he said.
A few weeks later when Chua was in Florida for golf tournaments she initiated a conversation with Griswold on Facebook that turned to texting. Shortly after, Griswold, now 30, was driving from North Carolina to Florida and asked if she would meet for dinner at a Chili’s in Orlando. She thought it was a date, but he merely wanted a dinner partner.
\But when he asked her to go bowling a few weeks later she drove down rural roads to meet him in Frostproof, a small Florida town where he was raised and his parents have a lakefront home. When he introduced them to Chua, his father Mike Griswold liked her “charisma and energy,” and suspected his son did, too.
Bowling that night was fun if not romantic.
Two weeks later, Chua played 36 holes in North Carolina and qualified for the LPGA U.S. Women’s Open that July. After texting Griswold of her good fortune, he persuaded her to visit him in Panama City, Florida. Excited about qualifying and Griswold’s invitation, she drove all night and arrived at 7 a.m.
A week later, Chua reached another milestone when she finished second at an event that promoted her to full status on the Symetra Tour, the official development and qualifying tour of the LPGA. She flew to Malaysia to sign a $60,000 sponsorship deal with Sime Darby, a trading conglomerate.
After returning to the United States, she joined Griswold at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Open, where they shared a room and strategized her game.
“He was an amazing caddie,” she said. “I made the cut and was paired with the No. 1 and No. 3 players in the world.”
During the Open, Griswold took notes, carried the bag, cleaned her clubs, did the laundry, planned their meals and kept their room spotless.
The next month, August 2011, she was touring full time and they rented an apartment together in Winston-Salem, where Griswold had one more year of college. He caddied for her on weekends and she helped him with math. He finished a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
The couple then moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2012, and the following year he received an MBA at the University of Tampa. All the while, they toured in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India and Malaysia, always working to improve her game.
Still, too much togetherness got tough. They argued constantly about anything from club selection to reading putts and she fired him at least 10 times.
“I am surprised we didn’t kill each other,” Chua said. “It was hard working so closely with someone you’re dating.”
The business arguments would continue off the course because they were always in the same car driving to the next tour location and eating meals together. They both recalled taking six- to 10-hour car rides in silence.
“Although her anger would upset me, if I think an argument is petty, I ignore it, which drives Jean crazy,” he said. “If it’s something more significant then we discuss and eventually resolve by communicating.”
Most of their conflicts were a result of Griswold pushing Chua to be a better golfer. (Her best years were 2012 with five top-10 finishes and 2013 with two on the Symetra Tour.) If she had a bad round and looked to him for consolation, he might give her one sentence then delve into everything she did wrong.
“If I didn’t do well, I would blame him,” she said.
In 2014, when Griswold started his career as a business unit manager at Jabil, an electronic manufacturing services company based in St. Petersburg, Chua had to tour solo.
“We argued more when we were apart, but texted frequently because we missed being together,” said Chua, who tried so hard to succeed that she began to deteriorate physically.
With elbow injuries and cubital tunnel syndrome that caused numbness in the hand and forearm pain needing surgery to correct, her game suffered. She didn’t want surgery and tried to work through the pain but realized it was time for a new career. In 2017, after discussions with Griswold, who supported her decision, she left the tour and enrolled in the executive MBA program at University of South Florida. She is now studying and working as an intern for Jabil’s chief of staff/strategy development manager in areas of automotive, smart home and appliances.
They were married Nov. 11 by Jay Steffel, a friend who was ordained by American Marriage Ministries, outside the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In her vows, Chua got a loud laugh from their 72 guests when she told Griswold, “I will listen to you.”
After Steffel pronounced them married, guests cheered the bride and groom, who were wrapped in a long kiss.
“Wes is not emotional, but Jean appreciates the little things and pulls the greatness out of him,” said the best man, Glen Mabe, who believes that Griswold has become a better person since he met Chua. “Through good and bad times, they have grown and matured together creating a special bond that will last.”