With heroes like Olympic medalist and former number-one-ranked women's professional golfer Lydia Ko leading the way, ACG Parnell College students Amy Han (15) and Aya Asaki (14) are keen to make their mark on the game.
The two golf-loving teens recently represented ACG at the College Sport Auckland Strokeplay Championships, and both girls performed exceptionally well.
Amy secured 13th place (net score) and sixth place (gross score), while Aya earned herself an outstanding first place (net score) and fourth place (gross score). A gross score is the total number of strokes (including penalty strokes) that a player takes, while the net score is their gross score minus their handicap.
Originally from Japan, Aya started playing golf three and a half years ago after trying it for the first time with her aunt at the Takapuna driving range. She took to the game immediately.
"I first started enjoying golf simply because my parents played it and I loved spending time with them, but after getting a lot of encouragement from my coach, I fell in love with it even more," says the Year 9 student.
Since then, she has earned a host of accolades. This year alone, in addition to her College Sport title, Aya has won the North Shore Junior Championships, the Warkworth Under 19 Championships and the Harbour Junior League, just to name a few.
"Until now, my proudest golfing achievement has been my win at the North Shore Junior Champs because I was competing against boys as well as girls. My next milestone is the New Zealand Under 19s. This is the big tournament of the year, so I hope to play well and showcase all my hard work."
One thing is for sure, Aya's mum will be cheering her on from the sidelines.
"My biggest inspiration is my mother. When I face obstacles, she is always there listening and encouraging me, as well as studying my golf swing and analysing how professionals play to help support me."
Aya only started at ACG Parnell College this year, but her passion and talent for the sport has been enthusiastically embraced by the school's golfing cohort, which has gone from strength to strength since its introduction in 2019.
Says sports coordinator Steph Trowill, "In 2019 we had one Division 3 team, in 2020 we had one Division 2 team and this year we have two teams – the A team in Division 1, and the B team in Division 3.
"It's been great to see the team who started in 2019 progress into the top division this year, and our B team is also doing really well. Made up of three Year 7 students and one Year 8 student, they were competing against college kids on Year 9 and above, and they still managed to win their division. So the future is bright!"
Amy has been playing golf for the school since 2019, and Steph says her progress, both for school and club, has been outstanding. The Year 11 student was recently selected to represent the Auckland Women's team, and also this year, she helped bring home trophies in a series against Wellington and North Harbour.
"I've been competing since 2018, and my biggest win was the Bream Bay Classic held at the Waipu Golf Club. This win gave me a World Amateur Golf Rank (WAGR)," says Amy.
"I also achieved first place in 2020 and 2021 at the Titirangi Girls Classic and had several other placings in tournaments all over New Zealand. Last year I won the net score at the College Sports Championships too."
With an eye to the future, Amy is working hard to elevate her WAGR.
"I started playing golf just as an extracurricular, but now I also play because I hope to get scholarships for top universities in the States. To do this, I require top golfing skills and decent grades. That's why I need to practice every day and achieve a better placing in WAGR."
And thanks to Tiger Woods, she has all the inspiration she needs to succeed.
"Tiger Woods is undoubtedly my greatest inspiration. He has taught me that I will come up against problems during my golfing journey, and sometimes, I will fail. But failure will make me stronger, more robust, and more able to tackle my obstacles."