Henry Sibley's Gonsalez One of Two Minnesotans to Earn Youth on Course Scholarship
May 11, 2020
By Nick Hunter
WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. – For most kids the end of the school year is a welcomed event that signals a sense of freedom and a release from the burden of classrooms, homework and responsibility. But the close of the 2019-20 school year presented itself as anything but, leaving a number of obstacles both students and adults haven’t witnessed in decades.
Since mid-March, 17-year-old Henry Sibley High School senior Taylor Gonsalez has navigated the turbulent changes the Covid-19 pandemic has placed upon people across the United States. Through the highs as well as the lows, Gonsalez managed to come away with a positive and appreciative perspective.
Little did she know that when Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order on March 15, it would be the last time she’d pass through the halls at Henry Sibley High School along with her peers.
“My last day of my senior year at school felt like any other day—I went to school and never had any idea that I wouldn’t be coming back,” she said. “Now having prom and our graduation cancelled has been really rough. I think we’re having a graduation ceremony in August, but it won’t be the same.
“It’s all been so surreal. I never thought there could be anything that could shut down all of these businesses.”
Trying to adapt to finishing her senior year of high school from a computer at home, less than two weeks later, Gonsalez received news that she’d been selected for admittance at her first choice of colleges—prestigious Columbia University in New York City.
“I was really excited to get in. I applied to a ton of different schools and was looking to have a lot of options to consider. [Columbia] was the clear-cut first choice. They have a large endowment and can really help with financial aid,” Gonsalez said. “The location—New York City—you can’t really beat that. I want to study economics and they have a really strong program there, so all of that really made it my first choice.”
Less than a month later, reality set in yet again when it was announced on April 23 that schools across Minnesota would remain closed for the remainder of the year. The following day, board members of the Minnesota State High School League announced the cancellation of all spring activities and athletic.
Already stripped of her right to finish her final year of high school along with her classmates, Gonsalez’s fourth and final season as a member of the Sibley girls golf team came to an abrupt end before it even had a chance to begin.
“It’s been hard not having a golf season. The first day of the stay at home order would’ve been our first day of the golf season. We never even got a chance to practice together. I was looking forward to moving up to captain my senior year and doing the end of year banquet moments and senior day,” Gonsalez lamented.
“Being able to stay in touch with the other girls on the golf team even though we’re not actually golfing together—it’s nice to be able to stay connected. I love playing golf, but they were definitely my favorite part. I’ve been really lucky to still have that.”
Introduced to the game by her father, Ray, the boys golf coach at St. Paul’s Humboldt High School, Gonsalez said he biggest accomplishment on the golf course during her high school career was being medalist at multiple meets. At the suggestion of her father, she joined the Youth on Course program in 2018 as a way to play discounted golf at a number of participating courses in the area.
Not long after learning her senior season had been cancelled, Gonsalez was named one of 19 Youth on Course Scholarship winners and one of two Minnesotans honored this year.
“My dad had heard about [Youth on Course] and signed me and my sister up for it. I got involved last year and only started utilizing the cards last summer. It was a nice way to go out and play affordable golf,” Gonsalez said. "After applying for the scholarship, learning more about the organization and interviewing with members of their [board of directors], I’ve seen it’s about a lot more than golf.
“I didn’t even realize that Youth on Course offered scholarships and one day got an email about it, and I was in the process of applying for a bunch, so I figured I might as well fill out the application. I got an email in March informing me that I was a finalist.”
“I got a follow up email a week later saying they narrowed it down to the final round and they wanted one more interview, but when I got on the call, they told me I had won the scholarship. I was really surprised, especially since I was expecting an interview.”
Evolving from the Northern California Golf Association in 2006, the Youth on Course program stretches across 38 regions of the U.S. on 1,700 available courses, helping over 70,000 members play more than 950,000 rounds of golf year-to-date since its inception.
In its fourth season locally, the program has attracted 4,700 junior golfers to more than 80 participating courses in Minnesota at the close of the 2019 season.
“There are college scholarships, internships and programs for caddies, so it’s more about golf and really about the lessons that golf teaches you,” Gonsalez said. “It’s too bad that I got involved so late in my golf career because I didn’t have much of a chance to take advantage of it, but I would tell younger players to definitely get involved, invest more in the program and learn more about it.”
Aside from her time spent on the golf course, Gonsalez was a member of her school’s debate team, additionally received scholarships from the Elks National Foundation as well as the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Program.
“I’m really grateful to Youth on Course for choosing to honor me with a scholarship and I’m really lucky that they’re helping me finance my education.”