Emily St. Aubins won her first North Dakota State High School Class B Championship title in 2016 as a seventh grader on the South Border Mustangs golf team. In rural North Dakota, the Mustangs are a co-op team put together from two schools 26 miles apart.
To St. Aubins, it wasn’t all that surprising. Her dad Jeremy isn’t even sure his daughter understood what a monumental accomplishment she had achieved when she won that title. Remarkably – and perhaps because of that ability not to dwell on it – she continued to defend for three more years.
“I honestly really don’t think about that because once you get your head wrapped into everything outside the golf course – I think the game is hard enough,” Emily said of her streak, which is a North Dakota record.
Tee times, scoring: High School Golf National Invitational
They’ve all been different, Jeremy remembers. There have been tough competitors, often older than Emily, comebacks, big putts, you name it.
This past spring, as a junior, the North Dakota High School Activities Association canceled the spring golf season, just like many state activities associations. An independent tournament was held in its place, and Emily won that too.
While unofficial, this year’s event brought a different kind of perk: It’s what qualified her for this week’s High School National Golf Invitational in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She’ll be one of 110 girls and 250 boys competing in the second annual 54-hole event at Pinehurst Nos. 6, 8 and 9.
Even as a baby, nothing soothed Emily like being on a golf course. Her mom and dad figured out early that when they took their daughter along to Ashley Country Club in Ashley, North Dakota, she would stop crying.
“We took her to the golf course because we love to walk,” said Jeremy. “Pretty soon I was modifying the golf cart so I could have a car seat in there if I wanted to go play extra holes.”
The St. Aubins could be at the golf course for hours, and Emily was enamored. Time passed quickly, from Emily wanting a golf club of her own to swing around to eventually tagging along with dad, the South Border golf coach, to high school golf practice. More than anything, Jeremy thinks, those early days as a third- or fourth-grader, tagging along with the high school girls, all of them positive role models, shaped the way his daughter played the game.
“For her to be around those kids when she was growing up like that was a big lesson and a big piece for her to become who she is now,” Jeremy said.
Emily qualified for the Optimist International and the Big I Junior Classic, two national junior events, in 2017. She played the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in 2018. Otherwise, her golf career has mostly consisted of in-state competition. Pinehurst is something new, and the pine straw and sand is certainly a change from the familiar flat landscape of North Dakota golf.
“I haven’t ever performed well at a national tournament, I would say,” Emily said. “I’m just hoping to play well. I’m coming off a few pretty good tournaments so I’m hoping to keep my momentum going. . . . It’s not every day you get to come and play Pinehurst.”
Emily plays volleyball in the winter. She slows down her golf game considerably when the weather gets cold, working on putting and playing over Christmas break when her family makes an annual trip to Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ashley is a town of less than 800 people, and the nine-hole Ashley Country Club is as relaxed as you might expect. Emily can walk on and play whenever she wants to with whoever happens to be there. Jeremy isn’t sure she’s had 10 formal golf lessons her whole life.
Interestingly, Emily also has been certified to work on the ambulance squad and more recently, has worked at the local hospital as a COVID screener.
“I’ve loved doing that because I’m thinking about going into the medical field so it’s kid of some good practice to be around that stuff,” she said.
With the past year so in flux amid a global pandemic, Emily hasn’t really had a chance to think about college, much less college golf. She does know she’d like to play it. With recruiting in flux, too, this could be a week a coach discovers a hidden talent – someone like Emily St. Aubin.