Inside Preps: Golf's Giddy Little Terror
Thu. October 04, 2012 at 5:07 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Athena Yang is taking the high school golf scene by storm, with shiny braces, a shiny Hello Kitty pin intact on a yellow hat and a shiny, positive attitude.
Yang, 14, shot a 34 at Eaglebrooke on Tuesday, her second 34 of the season, and has a nine-hole average of 37.
"Shooting 34 here, for a 14-year-old, is very good," said one pro at Eaglebrooke.
It was on a rainy day, too, and the course was slick, but Yang shot 2-under par and birdied four holes for her final score.
Her play, of course, stands out. She's accurate, she's got great poise for a youngster and she's got lots of tournament experience.
But something another golfer said about her Tuesday was more notable.
"She's a really nice person, even when she's beating your butt," said Crislyn Lucas, the No. 1 golfer from George Jenkins, who played alongside Yang at Eaglebrooke.
That's nice to hear because often with wins and good performances comes confidence, and sometimes cockiness.
Yang is anything but, and you can tell from the first time you sit down and chat with her.
She's bubbly, she's funny and her enthusiasm for the game is infectious.
"The competition is great, and I think the pressure is fun, but the other thing is that once you get the hang of golf, you just want to play more and more," a very-smiley Yang said after her match Tuesday.
The key to her success has been the support of her family.
Both her parents were at Eaglebrooke on Tuesday, following along on foot as Athena kept sinking shots.
Athena's mom, May, kept notes on a little pad, and her dad and coach, Matthew, watched closely.
The two declined a ride back to the clubhouse via golf cart and trekked back to the clubhouse, on foot, with Athena's gear after she was finished with her day.
You could tell they were excited to just be there and watch her play.
Matthew used to play and got Athena started after she showed an interest at age 6, and May, who now calls herself a "professional golf fan," makes sure her husband keeps her updated — hole by hole — when she can't make it out to matches.
"She hated golf because I would spend four or five hours on the course, but when she saw her daughter win for the first time, she got more excited about it," Matthew said.
It looks like Yang has a promising future. She's currently ranked No. 3 in the 13-14 age group by the Florida Junior Tour and has thoughts of turning pro after high school.
For now, though, she's just another freshman trying to fit in at Winter Haven, which is what her parents want.
"She really likes golf, but she knows that education is really important. And her midterms — all A's — shows she understands that," Matthew said.
But her mom, a teacher at the school, is not too far away if she does need someone to run to because in high school, "a lot of people really aren't what they seem," Athena said.
"It's nice having my mom there because if I'm having a rough day I can go to her classroom and have a hug," Athena said.
"High school is tough and different."
Seems like she's handling the pressure well.