Trailblazers make girls golf a reality

Greg Mast
The 2020 Ottawa Herald All-area girls golf team members are Virginia Wright, West Franklin; Shai Aho, Ottawa; Kaylie Reese, Wellsville; Aubrey Vasquez, Ottawa. Not pictured is Riley Titus, Ottawa. [PHOTO BY GREG MAST/THE OTTAWA HERALD].

Two area athletes’ injured knees became a catalyst in increasing athletic opportunities in their schools.

Wellsville senior Kaylie Reese and Ottawa senior Riley Titus did not sit and sulk over their injuries. Both knew volleyball was out as a sport, so they set out to find a fall activity.

The athletes approached their administrations about adding girls golf two years ago. A few months later in 2019, the programs were born.

Reese was the only Wellsville team member in 2019 and Kelsey Johnson joined her in 2020.

The OHS girls program had full teams both seasons.

The two trailblazers highlight the 2020 Ottawa Herald All-area girls golf team. The team members are:

Kaylie Reese, Sr. Wellsville

Reese was adamant about playing girls golf.

“Unfortunately during my freshman year I tore up my left knee and it took me out of the sports I am used to playing, including volleyball,” she said. “I found my area in golf. It is a sport I could actually do without putting too much harm on my knee.”

Reese learned a lot about herself when she approached the administration about adding girls golf. She played on the boys squad in spring 2019.

“It was interesting to do, especially by myself,” Reese said. “It was interesting to explain to administration why girls should not have to play boys golf, which is what I had to do my sophomore year. Being able to actually start that at my school and get other girls involved in it, has been great.”

Reese turned into one of the best golfers in 3A. She qualified for state in 2019, despite starting playing earlier that year.

“Being able to make it to state my junior year was crazy to me,” Reese said. “Throughout my two years of playing, the only [tournament] I did not medal in was regionals this year.”

Reese plans to play golf for Baker University.

Riley Titus, Sr., Ottawa

Titus is an all-around athlete for Cyclones, participating in volleyball, golf, basketball and softball throughout her high school years.

“When I tore my ACL and did not play volleyball my [junior] year, I wanted something that was new and different,” Titus said. “We did not have girls golf, so I tried to get the team going. It was really fun.”

That first year was a learning experience for Titus. This past season, her game improved tremendously and qualified for the 4A State Tournament.

“My focus was to get lower scores than I had last year,” Titus said. “I beat my scores by 30 strokes. It excited me. It was a great experience. In golf, you have to focus more. “

Aubrey Vasquez, Soph., Ottawa

Vasquez quickly became the team leader for the Cyclones. Vasquez played recreational golf with her dad and decided to join the high team as a freshman.

“I thought it would be a fun sport,” Vasquez said. “I did not realize how frustrating it would be.”

She is a two-time state qualifier. She found the social part of golf an important component this season.

“My freshman year, I was always the youngest in the group, so I didn’t talk a whole lot,” she said.

Shai Aho, Sr. Ottawa

Aho started playing golf for social reasons and quickly her competitiveness came out.

“I started playing in 2019 when they started the golf team,” she said. “I did it to play a fall sport with my friends. I ended up really enjoying it. I love going to tournaments and meeting new people. You get to spend a couple of hours with people you normally don’t get to talk to. I love practicing with my friends. We get to bond with each other.

“Last year, I really did not know what I was doing. I knew I wanted to get better. Ending the season five strokes away from state, made me determined to do better. This year, I went out and medaled in a lot of tournaments. I was disappointed at the end of the season as I was one stroke away from state.”

Virginia Wright, Sr., West Franklin

Wright loves how golf is both an individual and team sport.

“ I like how personalized it is,” Wright said. “It is as hard or easy as you make it. I can be as competitive as I want.”

Wright’s family exposed her to the game when she was young. She joined the high school team as a sophomore and improved each year. This season, she qualified for state.

“This year was eye-opening,” she said. “Hard work does pay off. I started out shooting in the 90s for nine holes. That completely turned around with lots of hard work.

“ It was so cool and exhilarating [at state]. I really appreciated how much other people took it seriously too.”

Wright said golf will remain in her life after high school.

“I don’t know if I will play for a college team,” she said.