By Peter Owen
IONNA Muir, the outstanding 14-year-old who owns the lowest handicap of any junior player on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, has just won Headland’s women’s club championship – by a staggering 32 strokes.
The workaholic young star, who says she practices for three hours a day, even when she’s playing, is a member of both Maroochy River and Headland.
She shot 75 in the first round of the club championship to open up a lead which continued to grow after every round. She followed up with rounds of 79-82-74.
She left some classy players in her wake, including highly respected veteran Josie Ryan, who had taken the Headland title 19 times during an illustrious career.
“She’s a lovely young lady, respectful and extremely talented, and she has the golfing world at her feet,” said Josie, who played in the same group for the final 18 holes.
Ionna plays rarely at Headland, but a month ago she linked up with 14-year-old Shae Coghlan, who’s also a member of both Maroochy River and Headland, to take Headland’s mixed foursomes championship.
Ionna, whose mother Kattai was born in Thailand, began hitting golf balls with her dad in the backyard of their Bli Bli home when she was eight.
She was a scratch marker at 13, was named Junior Pennant Player of the Year after last year’s zone pennant season, and is a regular winner of junior tournaments organised by the region’s Invincibles Junior Golf Tour.
Last year Ionna won the Noosa Springs Junior Classic, the Maroochy River Junior Open and the Katherine Kirk girls’ district championship, as well as going through the junior pennant season unbeaten until the final.
Ionna’s rise to the top of junior golf on the Sunshine Coast has been spectacular. But, to her, it comes as no real surprise. Nor does she have any doubt about the reason.
“I work harder than most of the others,” she says. “I practice for at least three hours each day and, as I get older, I practice even harder. I just can’t not practice.”
The hard work’s certainly paying off.
In the week between the opening and closing rounds of the Headland women’s championship, Ionna travelled to Brisbane’s Wynnum golf course for the 36-hole Girls’ Queensland Junior Classic which she won with rounds of 75 and 71.
She plays off a handicap of plus 1.9 – a mark that inevitably tightens as the weeks pass.
Ionna is a Year 9 student at Good Samaritan Catholic College, which partners with Maroochy River Golf Club to foster a golf program for its students.
She gets great support from her parents – mum Kattai and stepdad Pharnu – who drive her everywhere, make sure she gets time to practice and play, and provide constant encouragement.
Ionna plans to spend the next few years improving her game – and, again, she stresses the need to constantly practice – gain more experience, then try to secure a place on the Asian or Japanese Tours.