The 2016-17 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Golf Teams were selected based on performance and level of competition primarily at the high school level. Junior golf success was a secondary consideration, and those who did not compete regularly for their high school were not considered. Players from states that play in the fall or spring were eligible for selection.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Sister Lynn Winsor, Xavier College Prep
Name: Rachel Heck
School: St. Agnes Academy (Memphis)
While most of her friends are going to spend the summer at the beach or working a part-time job, Rachel Heck will be teeing it up with the best golfers in the world.
Heck added to her spring to remember on June 5, shooting a 70-71—141 over 36 holes to finish second at a sectional qualifying tournament in Braselton, Ga., which earned her a spot in the field for the U.S. Women’s Open to be held July 13-16 in New Jersey.
A week later, she won the Rolex Girls Junior Championship by one stroke in Asheville, N.C., with rounds of 67-69-72-70 for a 10-under 278.
Heck is 15 years old, just finished her freshman year in high school at St. Agnes Academy and is the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year.
Heck has been playing scintillating golf for the last year, both on the American Junior Golf Association tour, where she currently ranks No. 3 in the country — and figures to rise — and with her high school team.
The 5-foot-7 Heck shattered the state record at the Tennessee Division II-AA state tournament in May, winning by 15 shots with a 10-under 134 over 36 holes and leading the Saints to a third straight team state title. That came a week after she set a record at the II-AA West Regional tournament with a 7-under 65.
“Rachel’s game is very impressive. Her focus on the course seems natural,” St. Agnes coach Cynthia Giannini said. “One of her strengths is she has fun while playing. Being calm and collected on the course allows her to concentrate and stay focused on one shot at a time.”
That focus has allowed the Stanford commit to show a remarkable consistency in a game notorious for being a bit fickle. Last summer, Heck followed up an impressive third-place finish at the Rolex Tournament of Champions with a seven-shot victory at the Bubba Conlee National Junior at Quail Ridge Golf Course in Bartlett, Tenn., less than 10 miles from St. Agnes.
Those results started Heck on a path straight up the AJGA national rankings. Since her win at “The Bubba,” Heck has not finished outside the top seven in her eight tournaments — that includes a second-place finish and being tied for second twice — and then earned her first Rolex Girls Juniors Championship title.
“I wanted this really badly, but I didn’t want to think how bad I wanted it,” Heck said afterward. “But there were just so many great players here, and it’s just such an honor to win this event.”
So it’s little wonder that less than two weeks after being the runner-up at the Thunderbird International Junior in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she shot a three-round total of 210 to finish two strokes behind fellow ALL-USA First Team All-American Alyaa Abdulghany, Heck was ready for U.S. Open qualifying.
She took to The Legends at Chateau Elan course and shot a 3-under 141 and finished behind only LPGA professional Jane Park in a field of 77 competitors. And it was only after qualifying, that the calm and collected Heck allowed a little emotion to escape.
“Honestly, I was tearing up,” Heck told Gannett partner Memphis Commercial Appeal about qualifying for the Open. “It’s a dream come true. To be 15 and playing in a tournament you’ve grown up watching … I’m just so excited.”