On Thursday, May 15th, Provo High’s Girls’ Golf Team showed what they are made of by clinching the State Championship. Way to go to Coach Walker and our student athletes. Also congratulations to PHS Freshman Naomi Soifua who earned the 2014 individual medalist honors with the top individual score.
Below is an article written by Jared Lloyd of The Daily Herald the day of the championship–an emotional day for the entire team.
Provo freshman Naomi Soifua’s eyes welled up with tears after Wednesday’s 4A state girls golf tournament at East Bay Golf Course as she struggled to contain her intense feelings.
Joy put a smile on her face, since her score of 91 (modified Stableford scoring) earned her 2014 medalist honors as the top individual and helped the Bulldogs win their first team title in a girls sport since 2000.
But there was also deeply personal pain, an emotion that could’ve ruined her performance on the biggest day of the season but instead — remarkably — ended up aiding her.
“When they were driving into the parking lot, Naomi’s dad got a call that her uncle John (Soifua) had been rushed to the hospital,” Provo head coach Dave Walker said. “That affected Naomi, but her focus with that in mind was unbelievable.”
Naomi said she dedicated her round to her uncle, who had played a big part in getting her entire family into golf.
“I was very emotional this morning,” she said. “I didn’t want it to get in the way. I knew my uncle would want me to be happy and smile.”
Naomi’s mother, Camilla, said the family found out during the round that John had died. His presence in the mind of the Bulldog freshman, however, helped her through a tough stretch out on the course.
“I was on Hole No. 12 and I’d just missed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 11,” Naomi said. “I was getting down on myself. But then I saw my uncle’s face and I knew he wouldn’t want me to think like that. I started smiling. I went out and got a par, even though I hit the ball in the water.”
Naomi’s teammate, Provo senior Ciaran Burton, said that story exemplifies who Naomi is.
“I’m so proud of her,” Burton said. “It was so awesome the way she worked through it today and didn’t let it break her down. She is a very, very selfless, humble person. She’ll never talk herself up or say a rude word. It’s just an example of that how she played through the pain and did it for him (her uncle).”
Camilla said having Naomi, who finished with a one-under-par 71, win first place in the game that he loved was a fitting tribute to John.
Walker, who understands just how mentally challenging golf is normally, said the added pressure of a state tournament and the emotion of such a family emergency makes the final result even more amazing.
“I can’t even imagine what that was like to have that on the shoulders of a 15-year-old kid,” he said. “The way she responded was absolutely incredible.”
While the freshman may have had the most highs and lows to deal with on the day, the rest of the Bulldog team proved to be ready for the challenge.
“We had three girls shoot their record-low scores at East Bay today,” Burton said. “I felt like I didn’t play my very best, although my goal was to be in the 80s and I was, but we played a lot better overall than I expected.”
Walker said he had a feeling this team would be on a mission after the way they handled a cold, snowy, windy day at Soldier Hollow in the final Region 8 tournament the previous week.
“When many people wouldn’t have wanted to go out, they just grabbed their bags and stepped onto the course,” he said. “I knew right then something was happening. This week they came out and were practicing like crazy. They were on a mission this week.”
The balance for Provo was impressive: Abby Harward scored 78 points with an 84, while Burton and Hannah Miller each shot 89 (73 points) with Tyla Hunter tallying a 90 (72 points) and Savanna Harward shooting 91 (70 points).
Since only the top four scores count, the Bulldogs ended up scoring 315 points. That was 11 points in front of second-place Box Elder, which scored 304 points.
“This is a special group of girls,” Walker said. “Most of them are athletes who aren’t lazy and they don’t complain. They wanted to get better and go out and work hard. We told them we wanted to peak toward the state tournament and see what happened. They went out and made a good team.”
Naomi, who has played in a number of different tournaments as an individual, said it’s that element that makes state so memorable for her.
“This is extra-special because I’ve never had the chance to be on a team,” she said. “It’s so nice. I’ve never experienced a moment like this but it’s breathtaking.”
Burton said she couldn’t be prouder of the way the girls worked their hearts out to achieve their goals — then ended up surpassing them.
“We had three goals this year: To win a tournament, to win region and to be one of the top three teams at state,” Burton said. “We accomplished those goals and did it well. I’m more happy about how we came together as a team than any of the individual scores.”
Of course, Provo did have a secret weapon. Walker had a pair of gray pants that served the Bulldogs well.
He only wore black pants (matching the rest of the team) once during the season and Provo ended up losing. He went back to the gray pants and the superstition paid off as the Bulldogs won everything the rest of the way.
Two other Utah Valley athletes also earned All-State honors as Springville sophomore Lydia Austin shot an 82 (80 points) and Spanish Fork senior Sabrina Naulu shot an 81 (82 points).
Congratulations Coach Walker and team!!!