Vaccaro breaking records thousands of miles from home

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see url When Paloma Vaccaro first picked up a golf club, she was a 5-year-old girl living in Paraguay, a country where golf is only for the most elite of its 6 million residents. Now, Vaccaro is the second-ranked golfer in the NCAA Division-II women’s golf rankings, and has held the top position as recently as her Feb. 5 second- place finish in the World Golf Invitational in St. Augustine.

go here Though Vaccaro has established herself as one of the most accomplished golfers to play for the University of West Florida, her journey to success has been paved across thousands of miles, in different countries and with many years of hard work. When Vaccaro’s mother sat her older brother down in front of a TV so he could decide what sport he wanted to play, he originally chose ice hockey. Being in a country whose climate didn’t allow for that sport, he then began watching Tiger Woods’ exciting fist pumps and long drives, and he immediately chose golf.

His mother took him to a golf course and he began taking lessons. Six months later, Paloma and her younger brother began taking lessons with him. It was then that Paloma was introduced to what would someday become her greatest talent.

Playing intermittently for several years, Vaccaro began to take golf more seriously when she was 12, at which point she began traveling to play in competitive golf tournaments. She traveled to many countries to participate in these tournaments, and the experiences gained along the way were significant stepping stones on her way to becoming a national phenomenon on the golf course in the United States a few years later.

Paloma Vaccaro (

Vaccaro remembers shooting under par for the first time when she was 14 years old, something only a small percentage of golfers around the world can say they have truly done.

“It was my first time shooting under par,” Vaccaro said. “When you’re 14 and you shoot under par, it’s really amazing.”

Golf had established itself in Vaccaro’s life, and as she continued to improve, she knew that she could have a future in the sport for years to come if she wanted it strongly enough.

When she was a senior in high school, Vaccaro had several scholarship offers in the United States, but was unsure if she was ready for such a big change in her life.

“I was not sure I wanted to come here and study,” Vaccaro said. “It was a different country. I was going to be far away from my family and friends. I just wanted to turn pro, but a friend of mine told me, ‘You’re really good. You should come, you would like it.’”

Vaccaro accepted a full-ride golf scholarship to play at the University of West Florida, a decision she has never regretted.

Being hundreds of miles away from her home country was tough at first, but with the support of her brothers who were already studying in America, Vaccaro adapted to life in the states and learned to call Pensacola her second home.

Vaccaro’s transition from Paraguay to the U.S. was made easier with the help of her golf coach, who she said was very supportive right from the start.

During her freshman year, Vaccaro played in three tournaments and won the 2014 UAB Fall Beach Bash for the first of five wins in her career. Though she didn’t have a win during her sophomore season, she placed third in the NCAA Division-II Super Regional tournament and advanced to the National Championship tournament as an individual, where she finished in 53rd place. During her junior season, Vaccaro won two tournaments, but a 17th-place finish in the Division-II Super Regional kept her from back-to-back trips to the National Championship.

While her senior season’s story is not yet completed, she has already notched two victories this season. With at least five tournaments remaining this season, depending on her success in the Super Regional Tournament in May, she may very well add on to that number. Her current total of five tournament wins is the most ever by any UWF women’s golfer, one better than Clara Fornella’s total (2004-2007).

On and off of the course, Vaccaro, the only senior on the women’s golf team, sees herself as a leader for her teammates. Whether she sets the example on the putting green or in the classroom, she always tries to have a positive influence on her younger teammates.

“I just try to support all of [my teammates],” Vaccaro said. “I share with them my experience, basically. I’ve traveled to a lot of countries and have played a lot of different courses. I’ve been in a lot of different situations, like windy days, or with rain, so I just try to share whatever advice [I can].”

As for Vaccaro’s individual goals during her time remaining at UWF, she says she aspires to finish the season by regaining her No. 1 spot in the individual player rankings and to earn the Player of the Year award for Division-II Women’s Golf. On top of that, she is working relentlessly to make it back to the national championship to end her collegiate career on top.

“My goal is to go to nationals as an individual, and hopefully win it,” Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro will graduate in the fall, at which point she will pursue her lifelong dream.

“Basically, since I was like 15, I always thought that my plan ‘A’ was to turn pro,” Vaccaro said. “My plan ‘B’ was my education, only I had to do my plan ‘B’ before my plan ‘A’.”

With Vaccaro’s natural talent for the game of golf, going pro may not be too far out of reach. With no assignments and classes to occupy her free time, she said she will be able to devote many more hours fine-tuning her game in order to prepare for her professional qualification tournaments.

“If I decide to go pro, I’ll have the entire day to practice,” Vaccaro said. “I can’t improve everything, but there’s always room to improve in the short game. That’s where the money is. That’s what they always tell you.”

Paloma Vaccaro’s story is far from over, and with enough time and dedication, there seems to be no limit as to what she can achieve on the golf course. Coming from a country where golf takes a back seat to many other sports, Vaccaro’s journey to success is a unique story of hard work, sacrifice and a passion for the game of golf.