(Editor’s note: Part 2 of a two-part series on the only two female high school golfers in Sampson County.)
There was change in the air last spring on golf courses around the county — two girls putted, chipped, pitched, and teed off among the boys on the Sampson County teams.
Allyson Heinz and Jessica Lucas, both rising seniors at Lakewood, joined the Leopards all boys golf team last spring, something both have said they enjoyed.
Allyson picked the game up her sophomore year, practicing with her dad, Dan, and she decided last year that she wanted to compete. Jessica had never played the game before this past spring.
Both girls are happy they did.
Allyson said, “I decided to take up golf after my softball accident. I broke my jaw. When I started practicing golf, I found I was actually pretty good at it. I thought I would be a better athlete at playing golf than softball.”
The accident happened her sophomore year and Allyson was playing second base.
“I was covering a bunt at first and the ball deflected off the batter’s shoulder and the ball hit me in my jaw. It broke the upper bone in my jaw. I had a big black eye, too” she recalled with a frown.
There seemed to be no lasting physical effects from the accident. “It mostly scared me,” she admitted.
So rather than sit around and watch everyone else have all the fun playing spring sports, Allyson decided to try her hand at golf. She said her dad, Dan Heinz, who is also a golfer, helped her with the fundamentals last year, and she decided this past spring that it was time to compete. She and Jessica joined forces and the team.
Was it a good idea?
“Joining the team was a good decision,” she said matter-of-factly. “Right now, I’m trying to hopefully get a scholarship or partial scholarship to play on a college team. Five coaches have contacted me and one came out to watch me in a summer tournament,” Allyson said with a smile.
She added that the boys on the team have never been mean to her or Jessica, but she was uneasy about competing against them in the beginning.
“I was intimidated by the boys at first, because they hit the ball further. Once in a while, I would out-drive them and that made me feel good,” she admitted.
“They were nice. They were gentlemen, I guess, and would help me if I needed it,” she added.
The all-male teams at other schools also accepted her. “They treated me as a competitor and most took me serious. I wanted to beat them and they wanted to beat me,” she said with a wry laugh.
Allyson practices every day and said she is best at the chip shot, and she needs to practice more on her putting.
She said her favorite golf course is Lakewood, “because it’s my home course, but Coharie is a pretty course to play, too.”
Her best game from this past season was at River Landing in Wallace. “It was a very challenging course, very long, and I remember it was really hot that day. I shot what I usually average, which I thought was good. I was so scared I wouldn’t do good,” she stated.
The best part about this past season for Allyson was getting to play in the regional tournament.
“I was the only girl who got to go and play, and I placed 32 out of 48. I know that sounds bad, but to be a girl and this is only my first year competing, it wasn’t too bad I don’t think,” she explained.
Besides being on the school team, Allyson has joined the Tarheel Golf Association (TGA) and plays against other girls. She said they travel around the state and play in tournaments. “TGA events is where you get looked at by college coaches,” Allison added.
She won her first in June at Coharie by seven strokes. “It felt very good to win, and it gave me more confidence in myself to know that I can be the best if I try,” she said.
By winning the tournament, Allyson gets an invitation to play in the Tournament of Champions hosted by the TGA.
Behind the Scenes
The biggest influence for Allyson on her golf game other than her dad has been Dickie Walters.
“Mr. Dickie was the pro at Lakewood when I was younger and I had golf lessons with him. I wasn’t serious about it then, because at the time I didn’t think it was fun. I wanted to be on a team,” she said.
Now Walters is the golf pro at Coharie Country Club and Allyson takes lessons from him and Lakewood’s current golf pro, Karl Thurber.
The support from her parents has been great. Allyson said her mom, Kaye, who is also the president of Lakewood’s booster club, is always ready with an encouraging word, and both parents went to many of her competitions and “walked the course” to watch her play.
Adding with a laugh, Allyson said, “My dad has helped me a lot, but I can beat him.”
More Than Golf
Allyson is not your average one sport girl. She’s grown up in the recreation league playing it all: soccer, softball, volleyball, and basketball.
At Lakewood, she’s been a member of the school’s extremely successful volleyball team since ninth grade. The Lady Leopards were the conference tournament champions and made it all the way to the regionals in the state 1A playoffs last year.
On MaxPreps, a high school sports website, Allyson was listed as the No.1 setter in the state among 1A teams in 2011. She averaged 7.4 sets a game, for a total of more than 600 on the season.
When asked, Allyson couldn’t chose between volleyball and golf as to which was her favorite sport. She had good reasons for liking both.
“I love volleyball because you have other girls there cheering you on. I love golf because it’s a sport you can play the rest of your life. When you’re 70 you can still go out and play golf. I’m not sure you can play volleyball at 70,” she said with a laugh.
There has also been an unexpected benefit thanks to golf. “Playing golf has helped my volleyball game. When you have to serve, you’re not used to everything depending on you. With golf it’s all you. Pressure isn’t as hard for me now. So, when I’m stepping back to serve, it’s like teeing up with your driver, and it has to be good and it has to go in,” she declared.
Allyson’s face lit up as she spoke about playing on the Leopard volleyball team.
She smiled and said, “I love volleyball because of my teammates, but also it’s something the whole school can get involved in. The game is so quick and I love setting, because if you don’t have a good set you don’t get a kill.”
A setter has to be willing to share in the limelight when a hit turns into a score, and Allyson has no problem with that.
“It so fun to get a good hit because you know you set them up to get that kill,” Allison asserted.
When asked how she got so good at it, the teen responded, “Practicing a lot. Setters always go in to practice 30 minutes early just to practice on setting. That helps a lot. To be a setter, you have to have quick hands.”
Her best memory from the 2011 season was winning the conference tournament — and beating Pender to do it.
“We wanted to beat Pender so bad, and it was the last chance to beat them before the playoffs started. It was great when we won. We never beat Pender until this past year. It was an accomplished goal. We were all so happy and we felt great for Mrs. Davidson. Without her we couldn’t have done it,” Allyson insisted.
Head coach Sheila Davidson is the reason behind the volleyball team’s success, according to the teen.
“She motivates us to play our best. She knows how to treat each of us. For instance, I do better if someone is getting mad at me, telling me I need to pick it up. By knowing how each of us reacts, she can tell us what we need to do to help us accomplish our goal,” Allyson explained.
“My coaches tell us that we are the team everyone wants to beat, so we have to work hard to live up to that standard,” she added.
As with golf, her parents are always on hand to keep her motivated and to show their support.
“Mom is president of the booster club and she runs the concessions stand, so I see her out of the corner of my eye at every game. I can hear her and my dad over everyone else. He is always sitting at the top of the bleachers in the same spot every game,” the teen said with a smile.
So what has she learned from playing sports?
“I’ve learned how to interact with others, and I try to build people up. Having good sportsmanship can help you in anything, not just sports,” the teen asserted.
She was awarded All-Conference in volleyball and All-County in golf last year. In academics, Allyson is in the Beta Club and is on the A-B Honor Roll.
As for other interests outside of sports, the teen listed working in her church and volunteering at the Christian Food Bank of Salemburg.
She said the youth at Zoar have a Back Pack Buddies mission and they distribute food to both Salemburg Elementary and Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School for the children who may not get enough to eat on the weekends.
The group fills up a Ziploc bag with two breakfast items, two lunch items, and two dinner items, plus two snacks, and two drinks for a youngster to take home on Fridays to help get them through the weekend.
She has also chosen this as her senior project. “When you think about others, and knowing that there are children who don’t have anything to eat on weekends, it really makes you think how lucky you are to have parents who provide for you and look out for you,” she said.
After graduation, the teen said she plans to attend college and major in secondary education. She wants to be a teacher.