July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Girls golf: Ready for run at state

Highland girls golfer Rachel Horvath remembers when she figured out how rare left-handers are.

It was 12 years ago, when parents Mike and Patti took Rachel and older sister Stephanie to a clinic. The Horvaths were the only girls in attendance, and Rachel was the only southpaw.

Highland’s Rachel Horvath is ready to make another run at state. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY AARON JOSEFCZYK)

Right away, the instructor noticed Rachel’s natural ability. The compliment, which at the time she felt was hard to believe, helped fuel a golf addiction.

It was enough to kick an 11-year commitment to soccer to the side.

“I’ve always liked the social aspect of (golf),” said Horvath, who has taken lessons since fourth grade. “There’s not many sports where you’re congratulating your opponent. I can’t imagine when I played soccer and scored a goal and an opponent said, ‘Good shot.’”

Now Horvath is entering the home stretch of her high school career, as the Hornets compete in the Legends of Massillon Division I District this morning.

The 5-foot-3 defacto team organizer relished the first two years playing alongside her older sister, who is now playing for the University of Cincinnati. On the other hand, the time away from her has allowed Rachel to grow instead of being, as she put it, “Stephanie’s little sister.”

These are moments the down-to-earth honors student will cherish forever.

“I can’t put it into words how lucky we all are to be a part of this,” Horvath said. “The people we’ve met and the girls on my team, I hope I know them the rest of my life. I hope we’re playing in a women’s league when we’re 60.”

On top of a standout golf career in which she’s been named to two All-Suburban League first teams and competed in as many state tournaments, Horvath carries a 4.3 grade-point average that ranks in the top 5 percent of her class and a 29 ACT score. The 17-year-old is on the yearbook and newspaper staffs and is vice president of the National Honor Society, in student council and a peer leader for third-graders.

Horvath enjoys the off-the-course avenues to such a degree she’s decided to give up a potential college golf career to clear time on the schedule. Among her goals is studying in China.

“But I’ll still find a way to fit my clubs in my dorm room,” quipped Horvath, who is leaning toward attending Ohio State or Miami of Ohio.

College is still a good six months away. For now, Horvath is geared up for what could be another quality run at state. The Hornets are the defending state runner-up and, despite losing state medalist Jessica Porvasnik and fellow All-Ohioan Jessica McRae to graduation, still have big dreams.

“For me, one of the biggest things is this year I don’t really have as much pressure,” Horvath said. “I don’t feel it on myself as much. A lot of the girls I’m playing with are fighting for scholarships, and I took myself out of it. At this point, it’s like, ‘How much can I improve in the next few months?’ After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Horvath has manned the Nos. 3-5 positions her entire career, as junior Chloe McKinzie and freshman Madison Butler have replaced Porvasnik and McRae at the top. Though Horvath always has wondered what it would be like to be the No. 1 — her 41.0 average would hold that position on 90 percent of the teams in Ohio — the Granger Township resident wouldn’t trade her team for the world.

Horvath’s driver checks in at around 200 yards due to her diminutive stature, but she smiles when she says she’s the tallest woman in the family. What sets her apart on the links are solid accuracy and a short game that ranks with some of the best.

It’s taken Horvath years to hone a personal style that involves a lot of scrambling, but the results speak for themselves. She has shot 82 or lower in nine of her 13 tournaments this season and is coming off a brilliant 4-over-par 76 at the Turkeyfoot Lake Sectional.

Like all the great players to come through Highland in recent memory, even a great score motivates Horvath to strive for more.

Attitudes like hers are why the Hornets have been so dominant.

“She’s stepping up into that role of not being satisfied with some of the things she’s doing out there, even though the result is great,” coach Mary Becker said. “She’s shooting 76 and she’s upset about it. She knew she could have had a 72. That’s the mentality they have: We’re not going to accept anything but where our goals are.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.