While Fort Osage sophomore Gabby Vaoifi was growing up, there was one sport her father Bo wanted all of his children to try – golf.
Gabby has two siblings – Elias and Ezra.
Bo had them all practice golf on the range and even in the house. Neither Elias or Ezra turned out to be a golf prodigy. Ezra is currently a walk-on backup running back for the University of Missouri football team and Elias is a freshman wrestler for South Dakota State.
When it came to striking or putting a golf ball, it was Gabby who stood out.
“(Bo) saw that I was surpassing them,” Gabby said, “so he dropped them from doing golf.”
It turned out to be a wise move. This season, Gabby proved she was one of the best golfers in the Kansas City area.
She placed third in the Class 2 District 8 tournament with a 83, tied for 13th at the Class 2 Sectional 4 tournament with a 91 and tied for 23rd at the Class 2 Missouri State High School Girls Golf Championships with a 164 total (83-81), the second lowest score of any player from the Eastern Jackson County area. Because of the success she had at state, Vaoifi is The Examiner’s Girls Golfer of the Year.
“State was probably my best two rounds of the season, so I would have to say (the season) went pretty well,” Gabby said. “I really enjoyed the state course. It played to some of my advantages. They had wider fairways and that helped me because I have a pretty OK long game.”
A lot of that can be the practice that she has put in since she started golfing at the age of 7.
Bo would take a pair of socks, ball them up and have Gabby hit them across the living room.Then there was also a 2-foot-wide carpet runway in the Vaoifi household for her to practice her putting.
“We would do that for about an hour a day,” Gabby said. “When I was younger, I thought that was kind of cool because I was just watching cartoons or something, then I started practicing.”
The family often when to the driving range, too, sometimes even in inclement weather.
“I remember one time when it was pouring rain, and I was 10, we still went out and hit a bucket and a half,” she said.
Bo played a lot of sports when he was younger, but never pursued playing golf. When he saw that Gabby was interested, he wanted to give her the opportunity he didn’t get, she said.
It was when she was 13 when she realized that golf was going to be a big part of her future.
“It was probably when I beat my dad,” Gabby said when asked she truly realized she was good at the sport.
So what happened with Gabby at state clearly didn’t happen by accident, even with her season getting off to a rough start.
“When I saw her last year as a freshman, I knew her potential was limitless,” Fort Osage girls golf coach Josh Wilson said. “She’s being very modest when she talks about her game off the tee. It’s phenomenal. It’s so much better than some other seniors who are jealous of her ability to hit the ball off the tee.”
The season didn’t start out how Vaoifi would have liked as the struggled while having to juggle other activities at school like the speech and debate and drama clubs. Near the end of the season is when she really started to focus on golf and play well.
At state, Vaoifi shot a 83 on the first day and an 81 on the second day. That was a tremendous feat, according to Wilson, who said the weather conditions weren’t favorable the second day after beautiful weather on the first day.
“She somehow shot a better score the second day than she did the first, and the second day was miserable,” Wilson said. “It was 45 degrees, it was rainy, it was misty, it windy and it was cold. We had to make a trip to Walmart right before the tournament to get some clothes to cover us up. And she excelled in it.”
And she relished those conditions.
“It just served as more of a challenge,” Gabby said. “It just made me want to do better and top the first day. I like it when there is an unforeseen circumstance or challenge and I overcome it. It’s a mental thing.”
With such a great showing at state as a sophomore, Wilson said he could easily envision Gabby crack the top 15 and make the Class 2 all-state team next year.
“She really has realized how good she can be at the end of this season,” Wilson said. “She has the potential (to make all-state) for sure.”