The girls’ golf program at Saint Stephen’s has emerged as an annual contender for the state championship. Although the Falcons are still seeking their elusive first FHSAA team title, they have dominated district and regional play since 2012, winning crowns in each of the past five seasons and posting top-13 finishes at the state tournament.
The 2017 Falcons will look to build on the strong legacy of excellence already established as they strive for a sixth consecutive state bid. The 2016 team cruised through the post season, easily taking the district title and winning the regional by 37 strokes before placing 13th at state.
SSES has huge shoes to fill with the graduation of Vanessa Yan, who established herself as one of the area’s top players during her SSES career. Yan recorded top-30 finishes in each of the past three state tournaments, placing as high as 14th. The Falcons will look for sisters Maria and Catherine Huang, as well as returnee Kendall Miller, to step up as the new team leaders. Maria, a freshman, shot 76 to finish as district runner-up to Yan and was fourth a week later at regionals. Catherine and Kendall, both juniors, bring solid experience and steadily improving games.
In the history of the program, twice SSES has finished as high as No. 2 in the state. Led by two-time prep All-American Oui Nirapathpongporn, the Falcons were runners up in 1999 and Nirapathpongporn won the individual state title. The native of Thailand went on to a storied collegiate career at Duke University, winning the 2002 NCAA Individual Championship. Oui, who played six years on the LPGA Tour before retiring in 2011, also owns Duke career records for top-10 finishes (27), scores on 18 holes (65) and 72 holes (279). She is the only Duke player named first team NGCA All-America in each of her four years and was a member of ACC 50th Anniversary Golf Team.
Led by future University of Michigan standout Chelsea Pezzola, the Falcons’ also placed second in the state in 2007. Five years later, SSES finished fourth with two-time team MVP and current UCLA star Yvonne Zheng leading the way. The program has produced a number of other accomplished collegiate players as well. Perry Swenson starred at Texas and was ranked among the nation’s top amateurs in 2003 and 2004 before joining the LPGA Tour.
Other notable alumni include Boston College’s Cristina McQuiston and Florida’s Jeanne Cho, who went on to play in 36 LPGA events and coach at Duke University.
LPGA pro and five-time Austrian National Team member Carolin Pineggar (2009) is also a Saint Stephen’s graduate. Following her time at SSES, Pineggar was an all-conference performer and team captain at the University of Central Florida. In addition to playing on the pro tour, she appeared as a cast member on Big Break Myrtle Beach, a popular television series on the Golf Channel.