UW’s Alvarez offers message of hope, perseverance

UW’s Alvarez offers message of hope, perseverance

Uncategorized

UW’s Alvarez offers message of hope, perseverance

BRYAN, Texas – The tattoo on Anya Alvarez’s left shoulder peeked out ever so slightly from beneath her purple sleeveless top.

Only we can dictate when the narration of our story will cease.

Alvarez wrote those words in a poem at age 17 and had it inked onto her skin as soon as she turned 18. The Washington senior has been telling her story of sexual abuse since she met a counselor while playing in the 2005 U.S. Girls’ Junior in Idaho.

“I would love to use golf as a platform to help women,” said Alvarez, 22. “But if it doesn’t work out that way, I definitely want to get into activism. And writing.”

Washington qualified for this week’s NCAA Championship for the first time since 2006. For Alvarez, it’s the culmination of four years worth of work. She intends to play in the Colorado Women’s Open in June as a professional.

Alvarez’s golf journey began at age 4. The youngest daughter of Alex Alvarez and Pamela McMinn, Anya learned the game from her father, who played golf at Texas A&M and now works as a teaching professional at Elks City Country Club in Oklahoma. Her older sister, Paola, played golf at Oral Roberts.

Anya’s troubles began at age 9, when she says a trusted family friend who worked for her father molested her for six months. That’s how long it took the confused young girl to approach her parents. Then at age 16, Alvarez said she was sexually assaulted by someone whom she had met only a couple of times. Alvarez said the second assault was more painful because, as a 16-year-old, she questioned whether she could have prevented it. She fought through the shame.

“You just have to realize that it’s not your fault,” she said. “I never asked for it. I trusted these people, and they were at fault for what they did, not me.”

Alvarez realized she could find healing for herself and others by sharing her story. She returned to Idaho several months after the Girls’ Junior to speak at a state summit for teen dating violence and sexual abuse. That appearance got the attention of “Dr. Phil” and “CBS Morning News,” shows on which Alvarez appeared.

Today, she can recount the dark events of her past like she’s rattling off weekend plans. She’s gratefully detached from many of the emotions that once engulfed her. Alvarez writes a weekly column for twodaymag.com, but not many in the golf world knew of her past until an article appeared in USA Today two weeks ago.

“A lot of people were shocked to know,” she said. Even her Washington teammates weren’t aware.

“People who have been abused, you don’t want to treat them differently,” said Alvarez. “You don’t want to victimize them more than what has already happened.”

That’s why Alvarez prefers to be introduced as a “survivor” rather than a “victim” when at speaking engagements: “I’m not dead.”

Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur believes Alvarez treats the golf course like a sanctuary. During competition, she can escape to a place where she’s in control.

“It has taught her to be incredibly independent and not to rely on anyone else,” Mulflur said. “At the end of the day, you just have you to count on, and she unfortunately experienced that in a way that you wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Alvarez opened with a 2-over 74 at the NCAA Championship. The 5-foot-1-inch, compact player is sneaky long and hit 15 greens at the Traditions Club. It was a frustrating round on the greens for Alvarez, and Mulflur said her score easily could have ballooned to a 78 last fall.

For a young woman who speaks with incredible poise, her temper tantrums come as a surprise. Mulflur pulled her top player off the course during the fall’s first tournament for improper conduct.

Alvarez was warned by Mulflur during a practice round at the Washington State Invitational that if she dropped a certain four-letter word again, she’d be pulled off the course.

On the fourth hole of the first round, Mulflur got word from her assistant coach that Alvarez had a slip of the tongue, along with a slammed club. The veteran coach caught up with Alvarez on the fifth tee and did something she hadn’t done in 28 years: “I picked up her bag and said, ‘You’re done.’ ”

The DQ meant Washington had to count a 90 toward its team score during the first round. Alvarez returned to the lineup and shot 71-72. Washington lost the tournament by one stroke.

“I think she could’ve shot 89 blindfolded with her putter,” Mulflur said.

The incident opened Alvarez’s eyes to the seriousness of the offense. Mulflur reminded Alvarez that her desire to be a public figure comes with responsibilities. Eyes will be upon her, especially when things go awry.

“It’s a maturing process,” Mulflur said. “You’ve got to give her kudos, because it really isn’t always easy for her.”

Indeed. It’s an evolving story. One that deserves a happy ending.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home