To understand the greatness of Wadsworth girls golfer Alice Ho, it takes much, much more than judging a book by its cover.
Ho is the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants Ron and Jessica, whose true given names are Runneng and Xiao Duan. They left their homeland in search of a better life, driven by the allure of the American Dream and a future healthy family. They have succeeded in that regard, as Ron is a successful Wadsworth real estate agent.
At home, the family speaks native Cantonese, the once-preferred Chinese language that is losing ground quickly to Mandarin. It still abides by the Chinese culture and values of hard work, generosity and kindness above all else.
Alice, the 2013 Gazette MVP in girls golf, is known to her family as Geeling — “G” or “G.G” for short — and her older sister Katy, a three-time All-Gazette selection who is now a freshman golfer at Ohio University, is Yu-Yee.
The Ho’s Chinese and English worlds collide on a daily basis. Alice struggled with culture shock when she entered elementary school, but is now a confident 17-year-old with a huge heart that embraces the only life she knows.
“We live like an extended family, so I live with my grandparents,” she said. “Everything we tell each other is everyone’s business. How we think is different and how we look at life is different (from American families).
“We really have to work hard. I know a lot people think of this, but we have to 120 percent work hard at everything we do. We make sure we accomplish it or we don’t sleep. We try to be really generous and kind and help others.
“I’m really proud. Chinese is really amazing culture.”
How Ho’s family life ties into golf is simple: She was introduced to the game by her father, a 9-handicap who picked up the game in his 20s.
Alice still remembers vividly that day at Copley Greens, a family-owned nine-hole course that is popular with beginners. She remembers failing to clear a creek on the first hole, and she remembers the determination — even as a 9-year-old — to not only sail it, but reach the par-4 green in two.
There within lay Ho’s future: When she sets a goal, there’s nothing that will stop her from accomplishing it.
“I thought it was pretty long, and it was not,” a chuckling Ho said in reference to the 1,841-yard, par-31 course. “The first time was a challenge for me. The first hole, there’s a creek at 180 (yards) and I always tried to carry over it. I would somehow end up in the creek.
“I liked how mental (golf) is and how it’s untimed. It makes you want to be consistent and have a good muscle memory.”
No one in Medina County did both better than Ho this fall.
A four-year starter who is being recruited by OU and Division II schools Coker (S.C.) and Ashland — the latter is Ho’s preference due to its Dietetics program — Ho finished 17th at the D-I state tournament.
The consistency of the 5-foot-5, 115-pound right-hander was staggering, and it’s what she’s most proud of. Ho won medalist honors in all nine dual matches — all while never shooting higher than 40 — and recorded scores in the 70s in eight of her 11 tournament rounds. She was the Medina County Tournament champion, mythical Suburban League MVP and averaged 77.3 in the postseason.
Ho finished her career with three state appearances, including a second-team All-Ohio accolade as a junior. She would have participated in Columbus four times if not for Kent Roosevelt’s Kelly Nielsen finding the cup from 100 yards on the final hole of the 2011 Legends of Massillon District.
Ho also owns 11 of the top 12 nine-hole rounds in school history — her sister has the other — and her 38.9 career average that covers 1,053 holes trails only former Highland megastar Jessica Porvasnik, now a starter at Ohio State who is perhaps the best high school player in Northeast Ohio history, in county lore.
“When she’s on, her irons are really good, and especially her chipping,” first-year Wadsworth coach Brandon Cobb said. “She’s got a bunch of different wedges and she can hit a lot of different shots. I think a lot of young golfers, they don’t do that. She’s got the control when she hits the ball, and that’s exceptional.”
Though she was blessed with outstanding hand-eye coordination, winning tournaments, breaking records and receiving notoriety were secondary to Ho. Staying true to herself — and, most importantly, her family — she felt the need to leave a legacy.
Ho will be remembered by Cobb for her respectfulness and her ability to listen, but, above all else, he’ll remember her kindness.
Even with one of the best players in a deep Northeast Ohio, Wadsworth was winless in matches and didn’t break 400 in a tournament until sectionals. The Grizzlies started two freshmen, a sophomore and picked up Megan Flanigan midseason when Ho convinced her to come out for the team.
Ho had a right to worry only about herself. She’d been there, done that, and had dreams of her own to live out, but that’s not how she’s wired.
Instead, Ho, who is in key club, interact club and is a peer tutor for math and English, took charge and acted as Cobb’s de facto assistant coach. She provided pre-match motivation, taught mechanics and drills and got to know her younger teammates, who aren’t as naturally gifted but want to be the best they can be because of Ho’s inspiration.
If Wadsworth does get back to being an SL contender — it finished second, second and third in Ho’s first three seasons — she’ll be a major reason why.
“She’s that type of person who is really responsible for her own actions,” Cobb said. “She lets her actions speak very loudly for her team.
“It helped a lot of my younger girls to see where they want to be. If we didn’t have Alice, we’d have no one to gauge where we’d need to be. We’d have to look at other teams and say, ‘those girls are good,’ but we didn’t know how they got that good.”
They do now after witnessing hard work, generosity and kindness first hand.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.