She was an Rhode Island Golf Association Women’s Amateur finalist two years ago. Last summer, she made the quarterfinals.
Even with that, Gianna Papa almost didn’t make the Ponaganset varsity team this year.
Some confusion with paperwork had Papa out of the Chieftains’ six, but all it took was two practice rounds for the freshman to establish her spot as the team’s top player.
Papa could be more than that as she plays her Inaugural high school season. She’s got eyes on the girls’ Championships and, playing from the white tees – same as the boys – some even bigger goals as she plays on a team for the first time.
“This is all new to me,” Papa said. “With high school golf, I’ve already made some friends. I think it’s fun, especially the team aspect of it. I really like it. ”
All this after just one match.
Papa enters high school unlike any freshman the state’s ever seen. She’s been a prodigy of sorts, first making news when she competed in the Drive, Chip and Putt Finals in 2016 at Augusta National in Georgia. She’s competed – and contended – in several Women’s tournaments. As a 13-year-old, she set a Women’s course record at the Montaup Country Club in the RIGA Women’s Amateur Championship, a tournament in which she eventually finished second.
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It would be hard not to consider Papa the favorite to win the girls’ title this year. The tournament might be at its most competitive this season, with three returning first-team All-Staters and two other freshmen coming on the scene that will make the one-day tournament something to watch.
Papa knows it won’t be easy and wants to win this year because she knows the competition is only going to get Tougher.
“I want to win before my sister Vinny comes in,” Papa said. “I know most of the girls who I’ve played with before that are all in the top four. I think it’ll be a good tournament. ”
She’s also playing from the white tees, making her eligible to compete for the RIIL Individual Championship. No girl in RIIL history has ever won the title from the white tees (La Salle’s Juliet Vongphoumy won playing from the forward tees in 2008), and while it would take a lot of work, it’s a challenge she thinks she’s ready to take on.
“The competitive golf I play is all played from the whites,” Papa said. “So, I’ll get a chance to play for the title as an individual and as a team, if I qualify.
“Just being there would be cool. I’d like to put up a good showing, if I qualify for it. ”
Papa is excited for it all. Her game is steady from top to bottom, with added length as she’s grown the last few years. She’s also put in constant work on her short game, which she acknowledged was needed. She might be the best putter in the state, boy or girl, and if she gets it going at the right time, the sky’s the limit for this season and beyond.
It won’t be long until we see how it ends. The girls Championship is May 24 at Warwick Country Club. The team and individual Championships are the following week.
But Papa is going to enjoy every minute of it until it’s over.
“Getting the shirt, being a part of a team and playing with five other people is pretty nice,” Papa said. “I know at least 25 kids tried out, so it’s pretty cool for golf and should be fun.”