Eighth-grade golfer defies expectations

Christopher Johnson, Staff writer

Looking at eighth-grader Lila I., it would be difficult to discern anything but a typical middle-schooler. However, beneath her youthful exterior, lies an elite athlete who has surpassed most expectations.

Lila is the top golfer for the Lady Wildcats, leading them to a third-place performance in the Cape Coast Conference, while scoring the seventh lowest score individually, helping the team to advance to regionals. According to head coach Jenny Pazderak, one of Lila’s greatest assets is her unwavering focus and determination.

“The drive that Lila has when she participates, you can see it just in her eyes,” Pazderak said. “When she comes out, she’s ready to play. She gives 110 percent each time.”

Lila is driven by her goal to play for a collegiate program on a scholarship. Her parents were among the first to encourage this goal.

“When I was younger, my parents put me into a lot of sports,” Lila said. “My parents knew I could get a good scholarship in golf, but I think I just enjoyed it.”

Pazderak also said Lila is capable of someday participating in a collegiate golf program.

“I feel that she has very good potential with golf if she sticks with it,” Pazderak said.  “I see scholarship opportunities because she keeps her focus, tries the hardest she can and she goes out and works even when we don’t have practice.”

If her golf success weren’t enough, Lila also plays a second sport: freshman volleyball.

“I started liking [volleyball] in sixth grade because I played on my school team,” she said. “Then I went to a UF camp and I met their women’s volleyball head coach, Mary Wise.”

Balancing two sports is no small task. The freshman volleyball team practices before school, which allows Lila to attend almost all practices for both sports.

“My schedule is really busy,” Lila said. “I have morning practices for freshman volleyball, and then I go to school and after that go to golf practice or a match.”

A schedule packed to the brim and starting around 5:30 every morning and ending far into the hours of the night is naturally exhausting.

“I stay up really late, sometimes until 1 a.m.,” she said. “I take a nap after [golf] practice, then I wake up around 9 p.m. to get all my schoolwork done, then I go back to sleep to get up at 5:30 a.m. for volleyball practice.”

Even though golf and volleyball practices will conflict once she progresses beyond freshman volleyball, Lila remains committed to playing both sports.

“I want to play both,” Lila said. “If I get on the JV [volleyball] team I’ll have to figure out some way to fit both practices, but I’ll find some way to do it.”