Balancing Act: Austin freshman golfer has widened her horizons

Mar. 19—Austin freshman Ailani Thiravong has been around golf for most of her life, but she's never had an opening day of practice like she had on Monday.

Instead of taking to the greens with her Austin Packer teammates on the first day of practice, Thiravong was getting to know her community a little better as she was the town's honorary Mayor of the Day.

"It was an honor to be mayor for the day. It was a great experience and it was a great opportunity to meet Mayor (Steve) King and tour a lot of Austin," Thiravong said. "It was the first practice of the season and everyone was giving me a little bit of heck about it, but I've been practicing all spring break to prepare for this moment. I'm really looking forward to getting back together with my team again. I think we have a lot in store for this season. We still have a young team, but we're going to fight for everything. We have a lot of potential."

Thiravong played in some big golf tournaments over the summer and she has stayed busy this school year by honing some new skills. Thiravong has stayed active with the AHS speech team and she also joined the Packer power lifting team.

Thiravong impressed in her first state meet as she holds the top spot in the United States Power lifting Association for her weight class and age division. Thiravong's best deadlift is 220.4 pounds, her top squat is 165.3 pounds and her best bench is 110.2.

"Everything fell into place (with power lifting) and I'm looking forward to what I can do with it in the future. I've basically been training for golf. Everything has been for golf," Thiravong said. "I like to stay busy. Speech team is a great way to take on public speaking and to get comfortable speaking in front of people. I've really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can go with the speech team."

Thiravong also gave trap shooting a try this past fall to help with her vision and focus. Austin head coach Dave Brown said that all of the things she's done in the past year will make Thiravong a better golfer and a well rounded athlete.

"It's absolutely amazing that she's doing all of those things," Brown said. "She is stellar and she is really becoming a well-rounded person. She's getting good grades as well. All of this will help her in golf and everything she's doing (with sports) is to help her improve her golf game."

Last year, the Packers played their first golf meet in an unideal mix of snow, rain and freezing weather. This spring has been much more cooperative and Thiravong has taken advantage as she's been working on all of her golf skills throughout the year.

She is highly anticipating Austin's first dual, which will be against Winona at 2:30 p.m. at the Austin Country Club on April 8.

Thiravong is also appreciative of those who have helped her develop her game.

"The support from my family and friends plays a key role in my success and the support from the community members gives me confidence," she said. "I would not be able to have done anything that I've done without the love and support."

Austin sent four golfers to the second day of the Section 1A meet last season and the team is hoping to perform even better this spring. The potential of the team has Brown brimming with excitement.

"The golf gods smiled on me," Brown said. "It's not often that you have five freshmen who can play and are all passionate about the game of golf like we have this year."