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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Haley Moore: The greatest athlete you’ve never heard of

Simon Asher
Arizona golf athlete Haley Moore eyes a put during a practice on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

You’d never know it if you met her—in fact, she’d never tell you—but Arizona women’s golfer Haley Moore is possibly the best athlete on campus that you’ve never heard of.

The 5-foot-11 sophomore from Escondido, California, came to Arizona last year ranked as one of the top junior golfers in the country, according to the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo rankings.

Moore’s long list of accolades and victories include being named the 2014 California Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year in high school and finishing in the top 10 at the Pac-12 Championships, but that isn’t what made Haley Moore stand out. What surfaced Moore on the radar is that she finished second place at the NCAA Championships last season. And, by the way, she was only 17 years old.

When most teenagers are figuring out prom accommodations and getting their driver’s license, Moore was outdriving 22 and 23-year-old college athletes by 50 yards. She missed many events in high school, like dances, not because she had to but because she wanted to. She didn’t want to miss a single golf practice or event.

Moore finished high school almost a year and a half early in order to fulfill her dreams of playing in college and turning pro; she is that smart and that damn good. She should be in the middle of her senior year at Pasqual High School. Instead, she is honing her skills in preparation for a huge sophomore campaign for the UA. There is simply no other way to put it other than if she played college basketball, ESPN’s Dick Vitale would call her a Diaper Dandy.

Moore started her golf journey as a 5-year-old after being dragged to the golf course because her older brother, Tyler, frequently played. After playing other sports for several years, Moore decided golf was her passion and stuck to it.

“It was a struggle for me at first, but once I practiced more and worked hard, it became a passion,” Moore said. “I’ve probably competed in over 150 amateur events. Each day, I practice about six to seven hours and each day I work on something specific.”

That decision would be instrumental as golf is one of the rare sports that athletes participate in on their own, lost in the maze of their own thoughts, examining life and skill all in one. Moore admits to not being outgoing until she gets to know people, which is another reason why hitting the course day after day is ideal. She has a gentle demeanor—soft, kind and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Before high school, it was viewed as a weakness by bullies who took advantage, according to Haley’s mother.

“A boy once took her backpack from her and threw it into the boys’ restroom when she was in middle school,” said Michele Moore, Haley’s mother. “He then filled it with water, destroying everything that was inside of it. Haley was a huge Bieber fan at the time and had recently got a Bieber book that she loved; it was destroyed. It is hard to even bring that up. It was a difficult day.”

Haley stopped getting bullied once she hit high school and made the varsity golf team as a freshman. It was her acceptance; it was her refuge and still is today.

“She gets very emotional out there, but it is because her expectations for her performance are so high,” said Arizona head coach Laura Ianello. “She is focused, she is intense. If she bogeys a hole that she knows she shouldn’t have bogeyed, she gets mad. But she is so mature that she usually calms down by the next hole.”

Moore also has the shoulders of Ianello and assistant coach Derek Radley to lean on as pseudo-parents away from home. The two coaches have been there for Moore ever since she committed to them as a sophomore in high school.

“If I am ever in trouble or struggling, they are always there to help me,” Moore said. “They always try to get me to the next level and this has been my best semester and they’re always making sure I am doing OK.”

Moore, a general studies major, is aware of the possibility of going pro, especially after getting off to a strong start this fall. She has yet to finish any worse than 12th in four fall events, including third-place finishes at the Dick McGuire Invitational and the Annika Intercollegiate. Moore leads the team in rounds under par with 10, stroke average at under 71 and low round with a 65.

“There is a lot of thought [about turning pro] because I have always told myself that I want to graduate college,” Moore said. “I just know that people leave because they feel they are ready to go pro. I know that next year, I am going to start playing in the qualifying school. It is a big dream of mine.”

But before that happens, Moore knows she has plenty of room for improvement both on and off the golf course.

“She always jokes that [Arizona sophomore] Gigi Stoll is her role model,” Ianello said. “Here is Haley Moore, averaging, like, 68, and we’re like, ‘You have a role model?’ But it is in life. I think Gigi is teaching her that there is more than just sports. If you want to go out or cook a nice dinner, it’s OK. She is broadening her horizons.”

Right now, Moore is loving the college life, taking everything in stride no matter what she’s tasked with. It is with the same approach she takes on the course: very methodical, calculated and full of passion. She cares about the people in her life and the sport she plays. Her coaches call her a gentle giant because she is so unassuming with a huge game.

“I tend to be super shy at first, but once I start talking and joking, I am pretty cool to be around,” Moore said. “I am a fun person to be around, and if someone is struggling, I can be a role model for them to help them figure [things] out.”

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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