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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Aly Tingey of Spanish Fork drives the ball during the Region 4 championship tournament at Fox Hollow earlier this month.

When the Utah High School Activities Association sanctioned girls golf as a sport, it was a positive move for most everyone involved in that arena.

But it had a negative effect for at least one high school senior this year as Spanish Fork's Aly Tingey found herself having to choose between her two favorite sports — two sports that could each take her to college on a scholarship.

For three years Tingey was able to play both golf and softball for her high school, and she was happy for many reasons. First, she kept busy all year long as she sandwiched the two with basketball in the winter. Second, she didn't have any tough decisions to make. She just took to the golf courses in the fall and focused on softball in the spring. Now, with girls golf being a sanctioned sport, the top girls were forced to move their tee times from September and October to April and May. And that created quite a conundrum for Tingey.

"I love both sports. It was just hard because I had to choose one sport because the golf tournaments are always in the afternoon at the same time as the softball games," Tingey said, wishing the girls golf sanctioning could have come just one year later.

"I was so bored last fall. I totally planned on playing with the guys, then they threw a curve ball at me," she said.

But she received a bit of a reprieve when golf coach Justin Nelson and softball coach Don Andrews agreed to let Tingey play in the final Region 4 golf match at Fox Hollow two weeks ago. The league coaches only agreed to the move after a 45-minute meeting where they wanted assurance that this was not an attempt by the Dons to bring in a ringer.

Tingey's main purpose of playing in the final league match was to showcase her talents to Southern Utah golf coaches, who wanted to see her compete in an 18-hole event. However, rain shortened the match to nine holes, and Tingey finished third by firing a 48.

"I had to do something so I could send in scores. I only have like two chances to show them," Tingey said about her hopes to gain some collegiate attention for her golf game. She's keeping her options open and hoping to have a chance to choose between a golf and softball college scholarship.

Still, Tingey thought she could get that 18-hole score at the state tournament last week at Davis County Park, but the Region 4 principals, even though there is nothing in the league bylaws supporting their action, voted not to let her play.

"We were not trying to do anything sneaky or underhanded. We just wanted to do what was best for this athlete and help her get that college golf scholarship," Dons athletic director Doug Snell said. "The girl whose spot she was going to take even agreed to it."

Her only problem is a little guilt. Missed practices and possibly even a missed game are not easy on the team-oriented Tingey.

"I just feel bad cause all of my team's out there practicing. I hate missing practice, but they're all really supportive of that," Tingey said.

Though she was a tough rodeo rider in junior high, she quickly got bored and wanted to throw a ball. It's in the blood lines. Her mother is a Downey, and she loves her close ties to her cousins, especially Delyse Downey, who is playing shortstop at Snow College and played four sports, including golf, in high school. But sports runs in both of her parents' families.

"I'll never forget what her grandpa said when we took the state championship (in softball two years ago). He said, 'I have all those boy athletes, and my first state championship is with a girl,"' said Don Andrews, the Spanish Fork softball coach.

Two years later she's now a team captain for softball, and her confidence is flying high in all areas of her life.

"When she was a freshman, if you'd told me she'd be a captain, I'd have laughed you out of the ball park. She's totally turned herself around," said Andrews.

It wasn't that she didn't have the talent. Andrews and Tingey agree that it all stemmed from the fact that she was just too hard on herself.

"I was so afraid of making mistakes. I just had to be perfect. In my freshman and sophomore years I was a head case. One mistake and I was done, but my team helped me out," said Tingey, who's also had a little bad luck in not being able to make it through a season without an injury. She's keeping her fingers crossed that this year will be different in that way, too.

She gives credit to her team, her coach and key moments in some games for her newfound confidence and ability to look past those rare mistakes. She's so confident that she's hit four home runs this season as compared to zero in the first three.

"I hit the first one against Springville and thought, 'Well, at least I got one.' I wasn't expecting to hit the other three, but that game gave me a lot of confidence," Tingey said, noting that she's also worked on her strength.

Not only is she improving her hitting and fielding in softball, but she also started knocking down threes for her basketball team.

"I just started shooting. The other years I was a head case and didn't shoot, but this year my confidence has gone up in everything," she added.

She plays in the outfield for the Dons, and she's improved that aspect of her game as well, but her talent and strong arm have always been there, and the hours of throwing balls with her dad in their driveway shows, too.

"She is a good outfielder. This kid can cover some ground," said Andrews. And she wants another softball title because she's had three experiences in the state softball tournament, taking second as a freshman and as a junior and winning the title in her sophomore year, though she was injured at the time.

"I want to win another championship and be able to play this time. Second is not even close to first," she noted, and her team is definitely in the hunt for another title. They'll be counting on their golfer in the batters' box and in the outfield.

"I have a lot of time to think when I'm out there. Some of my best thoughts are out there," Tingey noted with a laugh. And she'll have plenty to think about this spring as she hopes she's met with both golf and softball opportunities in her collegiate future.


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