Amari Avery: USC’s Budding Golf Star

By: Jill Painter Lopez - May 19, 2022

Amari Avery was preparing for finals and an upcoming golf tournament when she got a call from one of her friends on the USC men’s golf team.

Avery, a freshman star for the USC women’s team, was asked if she wanted to join them for a round at Riviera CC. Obviously, she said yes.

The Trojans had a friendly game going, and she teamed up with Shane French to beat Jack Boulger and Gavin Aurilia on the prestigious course. She’s known as a great ball-striker and finished tied for fourth at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur after missing the cut her previous trip there.

Avery, the 18-year-old from Riverside, isn’t used to the perks that come with having teammates since she’s been home schooled since kindergarten. She’s loving life as a student-athlete. Since being an early enrollee in January, she’s already won three tournaments, including medalist honors at the NCAA West Regional on May 11 to lead USC to the team title. Avery and the Trojans are off to the NCAA Championship final next.

“I think it’s been super exciting to see it transition so quickly,” Avery said. “Obviously, I wanted to win, but I didn’t foresee it happening within my second month of being here. With transitioning from home schooling to going to real college and being on my own. I didn’t know how I would handle it. Luckily, I have some really good teammates and obviously some great coaches and they made the transition easy.”

Avery, the 2019 SCGA Player of the Year and 2019 California Women’s Amateur champion, called teammate Brianna Navarrosa crying one day because she didn’t know if she should dress up or be casual for class, how she would find her classes on campus and so many other things.

Navarrosa, also a longtime friend, calmed her.

“It’s been a lot - exciting, nerve-wracking and stressful but for the most part it’s been fun,” Avery said. “Especially being at a school like USC, with such a great athletics program and meeting all the athletes here. It made it really nice and easy for me to adapt and find some common ground with people who are working to be the best. That made it nice for my social life because I kind of had built-in friends. Social life has been really fun. Obviously, I don’t go out a ton. Even though it’s postseason, we’re always golfing.”

Avery never played on a high school team since she was home schooled by her dad, Andre. Both of them and Avery’s sister, 15-year-old golfer Alona, competed in tournaments all around the country and did their schoolwork on the road while mom, Maria, was working.

Avery now loves the team aspect of playing for the Trojans.

“I think it just changed my perspective on golf, and I like it,” Avery said. “It’s kind of calmed me down a little bit and relaxed me when I play golf because I’m trying to do what’s best for the team. If I’m out there and getting upset and wasting energy, then in the end I’m not helping the team, which would make me feel bad.

“It’s nice knowing you have other people to help you and knowing it’s not as individual and independent as it usually is. It’s been relaxing and takes some of the stress out of trying to put up a good score. You’re just trying to help the team.”

She finished tied for fifth in the recent Pac-12 Championships and now has four top-two finishes and seven in the top eight. As the No. 21 ranked women’s golfer on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), she was just named a finalist for the 2022 ANNIKA Award, which is given to the top female collegiate golfer in the nation.

Avery shares the same Dec. 30 birthday with Tiger Woods and her dad raised her with many of the same golf career principles that Earl Woods did with Tiger.

Avery had considered skipping college and turning professional, and she might turn pro soon enough, but she told the SCGA she’ll be at USC at least two years.

“I think COVID really hit at a weird time when I was deciding to go pro or go to college,” Avery said. “It let me and my family take a step back and look to the future what we wanted that to look like. I loved the coaches when they were recruiting me. I wanted to grow as an adult.”

And being part of a team has been a wonderful bonus.

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