Iris Kawada admits there are moments when she thinks to herself, “Wow, why am I here – and how am I going to get all this done?” The question most often comes up on those days she’s studying until 4 a.m.

Then again, Kawada, an All-American golfer and computer engineering major who will begin her junior year at George Fox in the fall, knew what she was signing up for when she left her home state of Hawaii to be a collegiate student-athlete. She was fully aware her free time would be limited – that her life, when her sport was in season, would be a hectic mix of tournaments, exams, study sessions, road trips and practice that would make for many a late night and leave little room for much else.

“Let’s just say sleep is minimal,” she laughs. “Yes, there are tough days. There are days you feel overwhelmed. But quitting has to be the last option. You have to power through because, at the end of the day, being a student-athlete just builds your character. If I had any advice to incoming athletes, it’s this: Stick with it. If you truly love your sport, stick with it, because it’s such a rewarding experience.”

Kawada has demonstrated that determination on both the academic and athletic fronts. She carries a 3.68 grade-point average, earning dean’s list recognition two of the last three semesters for posting a GPA of 3.5 or higher. And this spring she finished as the Bruins’ No. 2 player at the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championships in Houston, helping the team earn its highest-ever nationals finish – second place – in the program’s 11-year history. Individually, Kawada finished in a tie for 11th in the 116-player field, carding scores of 74, 73, 75 and 82 on the par-72 Bay Oaks Country Club course.

Iris Kawada

That performance came after she earned All-American recognition for her top-10 finish in the 2016 national tournament, when she placed eighth out of 109 players to lead the Bruins to a tie for third place. After the season, the Women’s Collegiate Golf Association named Kawada to its All-American Scholar Team for her accomplishment of posting a GPA of 3.5 or higher. This year, Kawada was consistently the Bruins’ No. 3 scorer in tournaments, and at the Northwest Conference Championships in April she fired two rounds in the 70s (75-78) to finish in a tie for fourth, earning first-team all-conference honors and helping the No. 1-ranked Bruins capture their eighth straight NWC championship.

“Iris is just an outstanding student-athlete,” says her coach, MaryJo McCloskey. “She brings a high level of determination, work ethic and commitment to the game, but she thoroughly enjoys the challenge at the same time. She also adds such a fun spirit to the team and is always cheering on her teammates. I’m so extremely proud she chose George Fox.”

Kawada heard about the school through a current teammate, senior Sydney Maluenda, who, ironically, played for a rival high school in Hawaii. The only girl on her high school golf team in Kaneohe on the island of Oahu, Kawada considered other colleges but was sold on George Fox because of its engineering program – but that was just one factor in her decision. “It was the school that really pursued me,” she says. “Coach MJ is really good about recruiting and making players feel wanted.”

Upon arrival, Kawada discovered an interesting phenomenon: She actually fared better in her classes during the golf season.

“Honestly, without golf, I think engineering would be 10 times harder,” she says. “Because my time is so limited during the season, I use it more wisely because I have to. I find that during the offseason it’s actually harder to keep my studies up because I don’t have that set schedule.”

On a typical day during the season, Kawada awakens at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class and is in the classroom until mid-afternoon. She then heads to practice for a few hours before spending her evening studying, usually in the new Engineering Innovation Center. Getting to bed by midnight is an accomplishment.

“Yes, it can be stressful, but I have a great group of friends to support me, and coach MJ emphasizes that school comes first while also holding me to work on my golf game,” she says. “The professors here are wonderful. They get to know you and work with you. It’s one of the things that really appealed to me about George Fox – it’s very personal, which isn’t something I think I would have seen at a big D-I school.”

Kawada says there is one drawback to being an engineering major and a golfer: Her travel bag to tournaments is unbearably heavy.

“I easily have the heaviest bag when we go to tournaments because of all the textbooks,” says Kawada, who plans to eventually return to Hawaii and hopes to work in the video card industry. “Our equipment manager, Rick, has to carry my duffle bag full of textbooks. I have a teammate who brings her entire wardrobe, so that’s heavy, but I think I have her beat. I just bring the heavy books and forgo the makeup and hair stuff.”