A-A’s Patton carried on family legacy on the links
The last name of Patton carries some weight at Alta-Aurelia. There are expectations when a Patton picks up a set of golf clubs. After all, for the last nine years, LeAnn Patton has coached the Warrior girls golf team to State. Her daughter, Annika Patton, picked up the clubs and took that weight on by winning two individual State Championships during her tenure as a Warrior.
Annika, an Aurelia native for her entire life, knew from an early age that golf was a family tradition. She joked by saying that it’s expected for a Patton to pick up a set of clubs and get out on the course. Her grandfather was an Iowa Golf Association hall of famer. Her mother played Division I golf at Iowa State and two of her uncles played for Iowa.
Her enjoyment of golf comes from not only that familiarity from family but how unique the sport itself is.
“It allows me to excel in my own. Having a mom as a coach helped me,” she said. “I got to see how the older girls played at practice, and then I could go and play. There’s just some dedication to it.”
When Annika was a kid she went to State golf to watch the teams compete and decided that one of her goals was to get a top-10 finish when she reached that point.
“I just wanted to get on the podium,” she said.
In her freshman year, Annika far exceeded a simple top-10 finish. When the dust settled, she had finished in second place in her first year of high school golf. However, she, along with the rest of the team reaching State was far from expected.
The young Warrior team went to State in that freshman season and won the State Title as a team. Annika didn’t realize that they were playing that well until they had finished their two rounds.
“We were supposed to be rebuilding,” she said. “None of us had any idea.”
After that second place finish as a freshman, Annika had a new goal in mind, to win the whole thing as an individual. She knew she could do it, and didn’t feel any outside pressure to bring home the hardware.
Annika shot 77 on both days of the tournament in 2017 to bring home her first State Championship. She recalled being shocked and excited after her second round as she was looking to just build off of her freshman season.
However, with one State title now in the bag, expectations began to wear heavy on Annika.
“I felt the pressure my junior season. People thought it was a given I was going to win again, and it’s not easy,” she said. “I was trying to play, do school and go through recruiting. I felt like I had to be the best. I lost some of my confidence after a couple of games.”
At State in her junior year, Annika trailed after the first day, a new experience for her. She finished in third place, which she said there was no shame in, but felt disappointed at the time.
That third place finish gave her the drive for her senior year though. This was going to be the rebuilding year for the Warriors with only three girls initially out, the pieces started to fall into place as they reached five through middle of the season.
Annika found herself in a familiar position once at the State meet this year. She was once again trailing going into the second day, and this time the threat of storms represented a way to keep it as an 18 hole event instead of 36.
She wanted to get it done early, so she struck out on the second day and began to battle back before taking the lead. Annika had won her second State Title, this one by six strokes after an even 70 on the second day.
“The first day wasn’t quite how I wanted it to be,” she said. “I knew what I had to do. I took what happened the year before and I learned from it.”
Patton also played volleyball and softball during her time as a Warrior. She leaves the Warrior volleyball team after breaking the 2000 assist mark as a setter, something she never expected to happen. Annika stated it was just as special as anything else.
In addition to her travels to State golf, Annika was also a member of the first Alta-Aurelia softball team to make it to State.
“It was a different experience. Qualifying as a team at regionals. It was pretty special,” she said.
Annika does feel a little bittersweet this year as she did not go out for softball, instead choosing to prepare for her new journey, going to the University of Northern Iowa to play golf.
She had always wanted to go to a Division I school after knowing her mom did the same, and her choice came down to either UNI or North Dakota State. In the end, UNI offered her more athletically as well as academically.
Annika plans to major in business management with her focus more on sports marketing. Her end goal is to work for an organization like the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the Iowa Golf Association or even the NCAA.
“When I was younger going to State, I’d watch the Union representatives working, running around and representing the girls,” she said. “I decided when I was done with sports that I’d want to give back and help out younger girls.”
Annika Patton will always remember how special her time at Alta-Aurelia was with the dynasty of the girls golf program. The expectations were oftentimes heavy, but she felt like it was an honor to be a part of it.