BRADENTON -- Doris Chen's NCAA women's individual national title wasn't just for her or the USC golf program.
It was for her mom, Yuh-Guey Lin.
Chen's mother was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer last year and had surgery after watching Chen play in last summer's U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament.
"I was really worried," said Chen, a two-time All-American who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I was just not interested in anything. ... I just put more burden on myself. I just put more pressure on myself, because I was like, 'I've got to do well.' I felt I had to do well for her. It didn't work that way. It worked the opposite way."
Prior to the surgery, golf wasn't a sanctuary for Chen. Her usually focused mind wasn't in tune with golf, and she became homesick.
Chen's father lives in Taiwan, while her mother is in Bradenton.
Yet Chen, a junior, persevered through the difficult stretch.
"At the beginning of the school year is when she just got off surgery, and I just couldn't get over it," Chen said. "I was just very homesick. I was very worried about her, and so I can't really concentrate on practicing, too. I just can't. ... I was really anxious when I was practicing. Other than that, I had to learn how to think of this event in a more positive way. Eventually, golf became a sanctuary for me."
The culmination to Chen's road back was her performance May 20-23 at Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships. She posted a 67 in the final round to finish with a 6-under-par 274 total for a two-stroke victory. The triumph ended a two-year winless stretch for Chen, who won the Pac-12 individual championship as a freshman and claimed the 2010 U.S. Girls Junior title while at IMG.
"I came close many times, and it was a good experience," Chen said. "It was experience from past failures and learning from those. Really just relaxed myself and let everything go."
The victory came with Lin watching her daughter. It was a special moment considering the severity of what happened roughly a year earlier. Lin eventually underwent an operation to remove her right lung and endured two months of chemotherapy before being declared cancer-free.
"The doctors saved my life," Lin told Golfweek magazine after Chen's victory. "I can see Doris graduate."
With the health scare behind the family, Chen returned to her stoic, focused self and became the second consecutive women's individual national champion from USC after the Trojans' Annie Park accomplished the feat in 2013.
She was back in Manatee County this past week, trying to qualify for a spot in this month's U.S. Women's Open. She tied for the third and final qualifying spot, but lost out in a six-player playoff at The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club.
"Doris is one of those people that when she was at the academy, if you didn't know her, you would say she's kind of aloof and in her own little world," said David Whelan, Chen's teacher for the past six years at IMG Academy. "But actually when you get to know her, she's actually different than that. I think her attitude when it comes to golf, she just tries to keep to herself and go about her business."