Coming into the season, Kannapolis Brown freshman golfer Vanessa Wightman didn’t expect to qualify for the N.C. 3A regionals this season.
But last week, she shot a 53 over nine holes in a match against Concord. That score — well behind elite high school players who shoot in the 30s — qualified her for regional play. She’s the first freshman in school history to make it.
On Thursday, Wightman also won a narrow vote, edging Butler High soccer star Gio Martinez, to win the third Charlotte Observer athlete of the week award.
She’s the first non-soccer player to win and the first female.
“We just spread the news (of her nomination),” Wightman said, “and my family and friends, they just voted and ... all the kids at our school could vote and a lot of them voted and that was big.”
Wightman’s 15th birthday is next week. That’s the same week she’ll play in the N.C. 3A Western Regional championships at the Etowah Valley Golf Resort, about a 30-minute drive from Asheville.
That’s a place she never thought she would be.
“I worked really hard,” Wightman said, “and I had to really drop my scores and I really had to focus. Then I shot 53 and got in and it was a really big achievement for me. Going into the season, I didn’t think I was going to make regionals. I was like, ‘Oh, you know, it’s my first year. We’ll see how it goes.’ But it was a really good feeling.”
▪ Each week, the Observer holds a reader vote to determine its athlete of the week. Look for nominees at charlotteobserver.com/sports/high-school beginning Sunday afternoon.