Homeschool student Sophie Stevens was again named the Junior Girls’ Player of the Year by the Golf Association of Michigan and has signed to play golf for the University of Florida – thanks to the support of her family, she insists.
Sophie’s parents, Mark and Mania, chose to homeschool their five children after their oldest daughter Samantha was diagnosed with autism.
“She was going to a preschool for kids with autism,” Mania said, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association. “And it always seemed like they set her goals too low, and that we could be doing more for her.”
After looking at their options they determined homeschooling was their best choice not only for Samantha but all their children.
“I thought it would create a bond,” Mania said.
The Stevens children began playing their father’s favorite sport, golf, partly due to Samantha’s limitations for certain activities.
They had a range and net set up in their basement. Every time they hit a certain number of golf balls into the net their father would give each child a piggyback ride.
Sophie started competing when she turned 9, and after a few years of hard work and practice she learned that she had a talent for the sport.
“I started playing pretty good,” she said.
When Sophie was 13 years old, she qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The family took its first vacation together to watch Sophie compete.
While at the finals, a video of Sophie and Samantha exchanging high fives and hugs was even featured on the Golf Channel. Mania told reporters that was a common sight in their family home.
“At night I can hear Sophie tell Sam play-by-play what happened on the golf course,” Mania said. “I really believe Sam senses that, feels that, and it really creates a special bond.”
Now Sophie is 17 years old and has a list of impressive accolades:
- Winning the 2022 Billy Horschel Junior Championship
- Earning a medal at the 2022 Golf Association of Michigan Women’s Championship
- Finishing 2nd at the Randy Wise Junior Open
- Playing in the 121st U.S. Women’s Amateur at the age of 15
Sophie committed to the University of Florida her sophomore year, and now that’s she’s graduated high school her focus is on preparing for her first year at college.
“One of the main reasons I chose Florida was because of the people,” Sophie said in her introduction on the school’s website. “I really like what Coach Glaser stands for and the way she coaches the team. I also enjoyed the people that make up the UF athletic department. It will be an honor to represent an elite group of students and student-athletes that perform at the highest level in both academics and athletics.”
As Sophie sets out on her new adventure with the support of her family, her first coach and caddy – her father – plans to be at her tournaments to cheer her on.
“He’s been a huge supporter,” said Sophie. “He’s always been my extra set of eyes, keeping my swing in check.”