Nothing is more humbling than high school athletes like Clover Hill High School golf star Abby Portyrata, who finds life lessons and wholesomeness within her respective sport.
Portyrata played in the Women’s Amateur Championship last week (Aug 5-11) in Charleston, S.C., where she competed against female amateur golfers from across the country, tying at 109 out of a field of 156 golfers.
The 17-year-old Chesterfield native started playing golf at age 8 when her father and older brothers encouraged her to participate in lessons at First Tee of Richmond and Chesterfield.
“I really wanted to beat my older brothers in golf,” she says. Her brother Zach chuckles at her comment, saying he no longer has a chance competing against Abby.
“I used to beat her in golf when we were younger,” he says. “Abby, Jake, my dad and I would create our own golf tournaments together. Abby picked up where I left off and now I couldn’t be more proud of her. She has an extremely strong work ethic and is surprising everyone.”
Paul Sargent, First Tee of Richmond and Chesterfield golf director and her swing coach since 2011 says, “Abby possesses a work ethic and dedication beyond her years. Not many 15-year-olds would have done the mundane drills that I assigned to her, but she understood that if she put in the work, she would see the results.”
Sargent says Abby’s training was proven successful when she won the Virginia High School Girls State Championship in fall 2011. “I believe that Abby really owns her golf swing and this knowledge has allowed her to adjust on the fly during competition,” he says. “Most of our work now focuses on the mental aspect of the game and continuing to build her confidence.”
Portyrata won Clover Hill High School's Most Valuable Player award twice. As a freshman, she was named to the Dominion and Central Region All-Academic team. Later, she received All District, All Regional, and All Metro Richmond Times-Dispatch First Team. Honorably, she was awarded the Betsy King LPGA Award.
Although Portyrata has accomplished much, she says her biggest struggle while playing golf is learning not to set limitations on her abilities―a setback she just recently recognized.
“I sabotaged myself for a long time,” she says. “Last month at the Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur tournament I shot a first round 70 and had one more day of stroke play,” she says. “It was weird to be at the top of the leader board. I had to convince myself to accept that I did well and know I belonged in the tournament so I could go out and do the same thing the next day.”
In June, Portyrata participated with the U.S. Junior team composed of six boys and four girls, ultimately defeating the Scottish Golf Union at and St. Andrews golf clubs in Scotland. The tournament resulted in what Portyrata calls her favorite golf career moment. “I had a hole in one with par four,” she says with a confident smile.
Though Portyrata qualified to play in the AAA State Boys Golf Tournament in 2011, she instead competed in the All-State Girls Tournament, winning first place. Portyrata’s advice to girls pursuing golf is to stay humble. “Work as hard as you can,” she says. “Compete against the boys and people better than you.”
Portyrata is now looking to have a successful last season at Clover Hill high school and later to pursue golf while attending college. However, plans for a professional golf career are not yet on her agenda.
I want to get through college first,” she says. “Playing golf in college will have a huge role in my college experience, but in the end I will be receiving my education. It would be cool to become a professional though.
“You have to play as well as you can and know nothing is guaranteed.”