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Freshman, golfer, national champion: Shannon Aubert makes it all look easy
Freshman Shannon Aubert (above) liked golf when she was young because it was the only sport she felt was challenging. She has come a long way since then to provide three key match play victories to help push Stanford to a national title. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)

Freshman, golfer, national champion: Shannon Aubert makes it all look easy

Freshman golfer Shannon Aubert was born into a family of athletes. Her mom was a figure skater for the South African national team, her dad was a downhill skier, and it quickly became obvious that Aubert would be an athlete too.

When she was young, she competitively figure skated and skied; she played basketball, baseball and soccer, but she never found any of sports challenging enough for her.

“I would just very easily get bored with things,” Aubert said about the sports she tried when she was younger.

But that changed completely when she was introduced to golf at age seven.

Aubert’s mother remembers the first time she took her daughter golfing.

“I bought her a child’s club to keep her happy and was astounded to find that she was a complete natural.”

Aubert didn’t see herself as a natural the way her mother did. In fact, golf was actually the first sport in her life she found challenging.

Right away, Aubert started practicing seven days a week for three or four hours a day. Her mom was the one who took her to the course, but it was Aubert who really wanted to be there. Even though she practiced constantly, she wasn’t able to master it like the other sports she tried.

“It just never got easy,” Aubert said.

When Shannon was nine, she moved away from her parents who were living in Switzerland, to go live in Indonesia with a family friend.

Although getting better schooling was one of the reasons for Aubert’s move to Indonesia, most of it had to do with golf. Playing golf in Switzerland was very inconvenient because of the cold winters, and so she moved to Indonesia to practice year-round.

Aubert didn’t find the move tough, though. She had been moving from country to country with her family since birth. In order to recite all the countries she’s lived in — France, South Africa, Morocco, Switzerland, Mexico, Corsica, the Caribbean, Singapore, Indonesia, and the United States — she has to read from a list on her phone to make sure she doesn’t forget one.

When she was only eight years old, she was already one of the best golfers in the world for her age. She began competing for the South African national team. When she was 11, she moved to the United States to get a better education — and it didn’t hurt that the United States had the best golf opportunities as well. At 14, she started playing for the French national team and still competes for France during the summers.

In the end, she committed to Stanford at the beginning of her senior year because it had the best mix of athletics and academics. Stanford is definitely happy to have her on board.

After only one year on the Farm, she helped lead the women’s golf team to its first ever NCAA title, winning all three of her matches in match play in Florida last week.

Aubert won all of her matches with at least two holes left to play, making all three of them look rather easy.

“Shannon is an incredible athlete,” said women’s golf head coach Anne Walker. “Her swing is one of the more impressive swings in college golf.”

***

Going into the NCAA tournament, the Stanford team had almost completely fallen off the national radar.

The team started out ranked No. 1 in the Golf Week polls and the Cardinal stayed within the top five throughout the fall. But the winter and spring quarters proved to be trouble for the Cardinal — some of Aubert’s teammates were injured, and in February, she developed an ovarian cyst that had to be surgically removed, sidelining her for three weeks. After this chaos, the Stanford team dropped significantly in the polls.

“It was hard for us to get everything together, so we dropped in the rankings to like No. 13 or so,” Aubert said.

However, when the team got to nationals they were fully recovered and knew they belonged there.

After the first four days of stroke play, the Cardinal entered the match play round of the national championship ranked fourth out of the eight remaining teams.

The first day, Aubert played two matches — a total of 36 holes.

“You knew it was going to be a long day,” Aubert said.

The Cardinal played Arizona in the morning. Aubert won her match easily, and the Cardinal cruised to a 4-1 victory over the current Pac-12 champions.

But Aubert wasn’t feeling as great in the afternoon. The Cardinal were preparing to play USC, the top-seeded team and tournament leader.

Aubert was paired off to play Annie Park, who had won the individual NCAA title two years earlier as a freshman.

Aubert did not think she could pull off a win against Park, whom she had played against since she was 14. She, quite simply, considered herself outmatched.

“She hits it a lot farther than me, like a lot,” Aubert said. “Like 20, 30, 40 yards depending on the hole.”

But she knew that she would need to focus on her own game to get the team a win. She recognized she couldn’t hit as far, and if she tried to hit as far, she would only get frustrated. Instead, she just focused on keeping her own score.

Aubert won the first hole, but she knew not to get ahead of herself.

“One hole is so small in the grand scheme,” she said.

But Aubert never once let Park get ahead of her and won the match 4-and-2.

Later on, in the final day of the NCAA championships, Aubert cruised to a 4-and-3 victory against Baylor’s Lauren White to give Stanford a crucial point that made Mariah Stackhouse’s dramatic comeback possible.

“I played really well,” she said. “I shot like three- or four-under that day so I didn’t give her much opportunity to cut into any lead.”

But outside of her own match, Aubert knew she had to support her teammates.

Throughout her match, she thought the Stanford team was doing well, perhaps because she was so submersed in her own game.  But when she finally looked at the leaderboard walking to the 15th hole, she saw the team was down in three matches and tied in one.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is not looking great,’” she said.

As soon as she finished her match, though, she ran up to cheer on sophomore teammate Casey Danielson, who was playing in front of her and was all tied up.

“It really helps to have people there cheering you on, and if you’re playing and people are cheering for the person you are playing against, it’s hard to get over that.”

Danielson clinched a 2-up win.

“I know [the support] helped and she played really well her last two holes,” Aubert said.

The team then ran back down the course to cheer on junior All-American Mariah Stackhouse, who, as everyone now remembers, won each of the next three holes with her back against the wall to complete a dramatic comeback and bring home the national championship.

“We just all erupted and screamed and then we all started sobbing,” Aubert said.

“She deserves this victory,” said Walker about Aubert. “She belongs on the big stage and we saw that this week.”

***

Throughout her career, Aubert has won the Dixie Amateur, was a two-time Florida State Champion and won the European Armature Team Championship with the French national team.

However, none of those other victories were as special to her as winning the national championship was last week.

Aubert explained that her teammates are with her almost every day and they go out of their way to spend time with each other off the course. Compared to the other teams she’s played on, she thinks that the Stanford team is much closer and feels much more like a family than like a team.

“I’ve had experiences where you win and it’s amazing,” Aubert said. “But it was never quite the same because here, we care about each other so much that it just means so much more to be able to share it with the people you love.”

Tens of thousands of hours of hard work went into making the national championship possible for Aubert and her teammates. As in any other sport, Aubert explains that it takes time and patience, and it’s often easy to become burnt out.

But she never quit, because to her, all of those miserable hours are worth it.

“We do it just to have moments like that, like the national championship,” she said. “That shows us all that the hard work, all the hours and the sweat and the stress and the annoyance and everything — when that happens, it all disappears.” Aubert says.  “You’d do it a thousand times over just to experience a moment like that again.”

Contact Laura Stickells at lauraczs ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Laura Stickells

Laura Stickells is one of the Managing Editors of Sports at The Stanford Daily. Growing up in the small, rural town of Bishop, California, Laura captained the powderpuff football team and became particularly adept at driving heavy equipment in her later years, a skill that helped her find a position as an intern at NBC Sports this summer working on Olympic coverage. In her spare time, Laura competes on the Stanford Equestrian Team. She also writes football better than the boys. Laura is a sophomore majoring in communications and can be reached at lauraczs 'at' stanford.edu.
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