Sofia Lippiello came prepared to golf in Antarctica. On this weekend in February, snow blanketed the golf courses in Coeur d’Alene, where Lippiello had driven with her parents to visit North Idaho College and meet head coach Russell Grove, but Lippiello brought her clubs, coats, everything. She had designs on joining the Cardinals’ team, so she had to make a good impression on Grove.
The Century senior figured she needed to show Grove her swing, so she offered to visit an indoor simulator. Surely there was someplace indoors where she could show him she could navigate a course.
No way, Grove said. Instead, he arranged a sit-down meeting. The group of four talked for about an hour.
“Then he’s like, let’s do it,’” Lippiello said.
So right then and there, Lippiello signed with North Idaho College. She became a Cardinal without taking a single swing on the visit. Two months later, Lippiello celebrated the accomplishment with a formal ceremony at Century Friday afternoon.
“I’m very excited, but also very relieved,” Lippiello said. “Going into my senior season, I was very afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be on a golf team for college. I was very scared that I was gonna get a golf scholarship anywhere. But now that it happened, I’m so grateful, and relieved that I got one. But also super relieved and excited for my next steps.”
For Lippiello, it all came together remarkably quickly. Around Christmas, she emailed Grove, letting him know she was interested in joining the team if possible. She asked about the possibility of setting up a meeting. Grove agreed. They chatted via Zoom on a couple occasions, which seemed to go well for both parties.
Then February rolled around, and Lippiello loaded up a car with her parents and their dog — Mellow, a labrador/pitbull mix — and drove eight hours to Coeur d’Alene. She drove back to Pocatello with a college scholarship in hand.
“I was shocked by it,” Lippiello said.
Those who have followed Lippiello’s senior season at Century probably aren’t. The Diamondbacks still have plenty of golf to play — it’s still late April — but so far, she has carded two individual wins. She shot a 76 at Rupert Country Club — “on a windy, cold day,” Lippiello added — plus on Wednesday, she logged a 79 at Riverside Golf Course, where she registered another individual win.
All of which took place after Lippiello signed. What kind of effect did that have on her? She’d like to say she played feeling less pressure, but the truth is more like the opposite.
“I felt more pressure because I wanted to keep performing,” Lippiello said. “I wanted to keep improving my game. I didn’t wanna stop. I wanted to keep producing and doing well.”
In any case, Lippiello’s accomplishment zooms into focus when you realize where she drew eyes — to Pocatello. This isn’t exactly a golf hotbed. When coaches make recruiting connections, they aren’t always looking to southeast Idaho. Check out this month’s weather and you understand why: Snow. Rain. Wind. Chilly temperatures. You might wonder if it’s really spring, but then again, it’s Idaho.
“One week, we went three days with snow, and it was really hard,” Lippiello said. “We couldn’t get out and practice. So it was definitely really difficult. I took advantage of the time I had being outside as much as I could. Just trying to get inside as much as I could.
“Being a golfer in Idaho is very difficult, because we have the weather. We’re not able to golf all year long. Also in Idaho, we don’t get much recognition for golfers. Everyone thinks, oh, it snows. No one really looks here. Everyone looks at Arizona, Utah, Nevada. No one really looks here. So it really means a lot, coming from a small town in Idaho, to get signed.”
At North Idaho, Lippiello wants to major in business, which will help her fulfill her long-term plan: To open her own business, or maybe become a pro golf instructor. “That’s my plan for now,” she said.
Thanks to a scholarship she secured in extraordinarily quick fashion, she can take the first steps toward it this fall. Good luck finding another golfer who earned a shot at the next level without practicing in front of their new coach.
“I wasn’t surprised he didn’t wanna see me swing,” Lippiello said, “but it was a good surprise.”