Catharyn Hayne/KLC Fotos
Sampson Zheng has developed into a leader for the Cal men’s golf team through his play and his cooking.
This feature originally appeared in the 2023 Fall edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly. The Cal Athletics flagship magazine features long-form sports journalism at its finest and provides in-depth coverage of the scholar-athlete experience in Berkeley. Printed copies are mailed four times a year to Bear Backers who give annually at the Bear Club level (currently $600 or more). For more information on how you can receive a printed version of the Cal Sports Quarterly at home, send an email to CalAthleticsFund@berkeley.edu or call (510) 642-2427.
Eating a home-cooked meal made by Sampson Zheng isn’t the stereotypical college dining experience.
Sit down at Zheng’s table and you’ll not just enjoy a dish varying from an array of cuisines – Japanese and Chinese to Italian and even Texas-style barbecue – but you’ll be treated to a level of hospitality and community that can only be shared over food.
Just ask Zheng’s California men’s golf teammates, who aren’t shy about offering to taste the senior’s experimentations in the kitchen.
“Sammy’s cooking has been an integral part of bringing our team together,” said fellow senior golfer and roommate Aaron Du, whose favorite Zheng-made dish is Wagyu beef with Sukiyaki sauce. “It’s during those meals when you’re reminded that we’re more like a family rather than just teammates.”
Zheng’s love of cooking has been an anchor of team chemistry for a squad that returned to NCAA postseason play last spring for the first time since 2019 and enters the 2023-24 season with lofty expectations. The same passion has also helped Zheng find balance in his academics, social life and a standout golf career that saw him earn All-America honors last season and projects toward future professional opportunities.
“It’s my way of relaxing,” Zheng said. “When I’m cooking, I can disconnect from golf or my coursework. It’s even more special when I’m able to bring people together over food.”
Zheng, who was born to Chinese parents in Japan, started cooking for himself around the age of 16. He became independent at a young age after moving to Bradenton, Florida, at age 11 to attend IMG Academy – he later moved to Orlando to enroll at The…