Humans of Harker: Swinging through life

Natalie Vo lives life to the fullest through her compassion for her friends and passion for golf

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Esha Gohil

“You really only do live once. You might as well live your life to the fullest, especially as a child. And as a teen in high school, live your life to the fullest and don’t have any regrets. I like to have fun and not really care about what other people think of me. I think that’s definitely a way to go with life, because if you care about what everyone thinks, you’re really not going to enjoy it to the fullest,” Natalie Vo (12) said.

Natalie Vo (12) leans her head back in thought, vividly remembering the moment she qualified for the Women’s Amateur Tournament last summer, the day that all her hard work paid off and finally revealed itself.

Since Natalie placed in the top nine at regionals last year, making history at state championships, her extreme golfing talent is well known. What is less known is despite moments where she felt she wanted to give up the sport, she stuck with it, and as a result, she is now able to credit golf for the countless opportunities she’s had the privilege of receiving.

“Sticking with golf has given me so many opportunities. Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to play in some of the tournaments that have already proven or gotten the opportunities I’ve already gotten.”

Natalie has been playing golf since she was 6 years old, following in the footsteps of her older sister Katelyn Vo (‘20). When Katelyn began enjoying the sport, their father decided to enroll Natalie as well. Her sister is also a great influence and plays a large role in Natalie’s life. Katelyn is not only a reliable source of support and encouragement for Natalie, but she is also a friend.

“Because of my sister, I started to like [golf], so it was never really forced on me,” Natalie said. “My older sister, she always puts me in my place. So that way, I know what I need to change. It’s always been positive, though, never in a negative way.”

Despite her success now, golf has not always been a glorious and fun sport for Natalie. In the many competitions that she has participated in, there have been successes as well as challenges. But each time, she pulls herself back up after a loss or rough day and convinces herself to do better next time and constantly improve. For Natalie, the competition and team aspect help her get back on her feet.

“There are definitely ups and downs in your game. You never know on any day, so I’ve definitely had a lot of rough tournaments, but I’ve come back strong and been able to pick myself up after that,” Natalie said. “Going out there and having fun and being able to beat what I did last time really encourages me to go out.”

Before each game, Natalie gets in the zone so that she is concentrated and plays to the best of her ability. Practicing by herself with her AirPods before each competition helps her get rid of her nerves.

“Usually, I don’t get nervous when I’m playing, maybe [a little] on the first tee, but after that, it’s gone … there’s no point in getting nervous because it sometimes may make you try a little bit harder, which might not help you in a sense,” Natalie said.

Despite it being such a large part of her life, golf isn’t what Natalie wants to be remembered for. She’d rather be known as the reliable friend on campus, someone that’s always available if needed, and she always tries to have an encouraging and kind aura around her.

“[I want to be] the friend that is always there to help you when you are sad. I enjoy helping people more than myself [at] times,” Natalie said. “I care for [my friends] a lot … so making my friends happy and seeing them happy makes me happy.”

Natalie’s friends play an incredible role in her life, as evidenced by her unwavering devotion to them. She credits them for her personal growth since middle school, pushing her to become more well-rounded, independent and social. Ashley Gauba (12), who has known Natalie for almost seven years, notes the growth she has seen in her close friend since they first met.

“She seems really shy, but she’s got this positive, outgoing energy that I think has grown with her and makes her so fun to be around,” Ashley said. “We talk every day, and even though it’s usually joking around, it’s such a positive environment with her.”

Close friend Cordelia Callaud (12) also describes her as positive, optimistic and funny. She comments that Natalie is someone who is always happy and brightens the mood of those around her as well.

“When I first met Natalie, I’d probably describe her as shy and polite, but now that we’re closer, she’s so energetic and loud, I feel like sometimes I’d even call her crazy,” Cordelia said.

Part of the reason that Natalie cares so much about her friends is because of how important being kind and helpful to others is to her. And thanks to them, Natalie has been able to open up more easily and achieve her goal of being the friend that’s always there, using her positive energy to light up their moods.

“There’s no point in really being mean to people,” Natalie said. “I definitely think being nice is a way to make friends, and I feel like it makes other people’s days when you’re nicer than when you’re being mean, because there’s really no point in being mean.”

A motto that Natalie lives by is “you only live once.” She strives to take each moment as it comes and make the most of each day.

“You really only do live once. You might as well live your life to the fullest, especially as a child. And as a teen in high school, live your life to the fullest and don’t have any regrets,” Natalie said. “I like to have fun and not really care about what other people think of me. I think that’s definitely a way to go with life, because if you care about what everyone thinks, you’re really not going to enjoy it to the fullest.”

Additional reporting by Jasleen Hansra.