By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe golfer Sasha Banks has used her talent on the greens to secure a promising next round — the 17-year-old recently verbally committed to attend Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) in 2015.
Sasha plays on the boys’ golf team at her high school, Escondido Charter High School, and was the captain and MVP of the team this year. She is a member of the USA Junior National Team and plays on the American Junior Golf Association Tour.
Sasha has only been playing golf for four years, starting at age 14, after being introduced to the sport by her dad. She began her athletic career as a tennis player at age 7 and as a freshman at Torrey Pines High School; she played on the varsity squad and was the number two singles player on the CIF championship winning team.
After transferring to Escondido Charter High School after her freshman year, she had to make a decision to play either tennis or golf. She picked golf.
“It’s just a very different sport,” Sasha said. “I like the mental aspect of the game. It really challenges you to think in a different way and I feel like it’s helped me with life too.”
Sasha said tennis is more of a reactionary sport, in golf she said you have to stay disciplined, positive and play as you go.
Sasha plays golf every day, sometimes twice a day, at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. Her coach is Chris Mayson, director of instruction at Maderas Golf Club and west region director of the USA Junior National Team. She also takes lessons from Jacqui McSorely at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. McSorely started the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf San Diego in North County and is also the coach of the women’s golf team at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Sasha consistently shoots in the 70s, saying that her iron game is the strongest part of her game and that about 80 percent of her approach shots are on the green.
Her putting is where she has had to put in the most work to improve.
“I love to just hit on the range and hit long balls, and it takes a lot of practice and experience to get good at the short game,” Sasha said. “My short game has definitely improved a lot in the last year.”
In January, Sasha was part of the USA Junior National Team that traveled to China to compete in the Aaron Baddeley International Championship at Sheraton Qingyuan Lion Lake Country Club, one of two girls on the six-player squad. The tournament exposes the young golfers to what life would be like as a professional golfer.
“That was one of the biggest experiences for me, it was so far away and I got to play against players from Australia, Japan and all over the world, and the person who won got to play in the Australian Open,” Sasha said. “It was such a great experience to play on such a nice course and meet so many people.”
Some of the players she met she saw later in national tournaments — “It’s crazy how small the golf world is,” Sasha said.
This summer, as she did last year, Sasha will play on the East Coast as part of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Tour.
Last year she placed in the top 10 in all of the AJGA qualifying tournaments and is now exempt from qualifying this year because she earned enough AJGA “stars.”
This summer she’ll play in three tournaments in New York and Maryland and will travel to compete with the Junior America’s Cup in Walla Walla, Wash., in July.
“I’m really excited for the summer,” said Sasha.
Before she heads off for the tour in two weeks, she will play in the AJGA ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior tournament in Rancho Mirage on June 16.
Academically, Sasha works hard in school and has never had a “B” in middle school, high school or the college courses she takes at Mira Costa College. At Mira Costa, she has taken calculus, chemistry and economics not only to pick up credits but also to prepare herself for the college experience.
She said it’s definitely a relief to head into her senior year with her college plans locked.
At Brown, she is not only looking to improve her golf game but also plans to go into pre-med or chemistry.
“I really want to play professionally but if it doesn’t work out, I have a back-up plan as well,” Sasha said.