Pupil to teacher: An Austin senior has helped guide a very talented middle school golfer

Published 5:01 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

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Not too long ago the Austin girls golf team was struggling to field a full squad and the Packers were having a hard time seeing the light of the end of the tunnel.

Now the Packers have a young, talented squad on the rise that is led by one of the top young players in the area.

Senior Mallory Brown has seen the program make big improvements since she began golfing as a seventh grader. Mallory was brought up to varsity as an eighth grader and she remembers the fear of going against older players.

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“It was scary being an eighth grader on the same team as my older sister and her friends,” Mallory said. “People used to say Austin’s not doing so hot, and now we’re a totally different team and there is actually skill on our team compared to past years. You get what you put in.”

Mallory is now mentoring a middle school golfer who is taking the same path she once did. However, this middle schooler has been golfing since she was two years old.

Seventh grader Aliani Thiravong moved back to town this past summer after being gone for nine years and she has already established herself as one of the best Austin golfers in years. Thiravong has turned a lot of heads early on this season as Austin’s top golfer.

Austin golfers Aliani Thiravong and Mallory Brown have both contributed to the rise of the Packers this fall. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

“Our team is excited about Aliani. They’re pretty amazed by what she can do and I think they like the buzz,” Austin head coach Dave Brown said. “We walk into tournaments everywhere and people are talking about Austin now. First they want to talk about Aliani and whether she’s really in seventh grade, but then they start noticing how all of the other girls on our team have gotten better.”

Thiravong, who has learned a lot about golf from her father, looks at the game as a great way to spend time with family. She has grandparents who play and she has played for as long as she can remember.

“It’s a family sport. I get to spend time with my family, while also having fun,” Thiravong said. “It might seem hard at first, but with time and dedication, hard work pays off.”

Mallory can’t offer Thiravong a lot of golfing tips that she hasn’t already mastered, but she has helped the young Packer develop maturity and focus on the greens.

“I haven’t been able to teach her any skill, because she’s got me on that,” Mallory said. “I’ve helped her cool down, like when we’re on a tough meet and she’s had a couple of not so good shots. She’s got to forget about them and leave behind the bad ones and keep going.”

Thiravong has appreciated the guidance she has received from Mallory and she credits the entire squad for making her feel at home, while playing against much older players.

“Mallory is a great role model and I love playing with the high school team,” Thiravong said. “They’re so inviting and kind and they help me out whenever I need it. Mallory is a great captain. On the first day of practice I played with her. I was so nervous being around high schoolers and older players, but she really welcomed me to the team and got me used to it.”

Austin has a roster that includes one senior, one sophomore, three ninth graders and seven junior high golfers. It is the first time the Packers have had a JV program in quite some time and the future is bright. It has been a fun team for Brown to lead in his first year as the high school head coach.

“Our varsity girls are a year older and their scores are improving. When you see yourself getting better by working, it takes care of itself,” Brown said. “I think COVID saved us. It was a natural social distancer and people got outside and played golf. Most of my girls started playing golf with their parents when there was nothing else to do.”