Thursday, 02 November 2023 14:09

Saratoga’s Bonitatibus Excels On The Course, Discovers Passion For Golf

Photo provided. Photo provided.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Prior to October, Saratoga Springs senior Lira Bonitatibus had never played 18 holes of golf competitively. But many wouldn’t have been able to guess, after watching the Blue Streaks’ golfer earn a 14th-place finish at the 2023 Section 2 Girls Golf Championships.

Bonitatibus was the Saratoga girls team’s top finisher at sectionals, capping off her first and only season of varsity golf in style. She had played from a young age in competitions and for fun, but said her experience this fall led her to discover a passion for the sport and goals of playing at the next level.

On the first day of sectionals, Bonitatibus shot a 90, and followed that up with a 95 on the final day, earning a 14th-place finish out of 61 competitors. It was an impressive finish for the senior, especially considering nearly all of her prior competitive match experience came this fall season with the Blue Streaks.

“The day before the first day (of sectionals) was the very first time I played 18 holes all at one time,” Bonitatibus said, noting she played the Edison Club the day prior as preparation. 

“I told myself to just go out there and just do the best that I could,” she said of her mindset. “I mean, everybody’s going to have a bad shot or a bad day, a bad hole, whatever it is. All I can do is bring my best, and that’s what I did.”

Lexie Bonitatibus, Lira’s mother, said her ability to stay mentally focused and balanced was one of the keys to her success all season.

“I think that mental piece was really what got her all the way through to this high level of sectionals,” said Lexie Bonitatibus.

Bonitatibus first began playing golf around age three, and had competed in PGA Jr. League scrambles and advanced to the sub-regionals four times in the Jr. League’s Drive, Chip, and Putt tournament. She has also competed in numerous other sports, including basketball and tennis, and is a black belt in tae kwon do. 

However, Lira’s first full-time foray into competitive golfing wasn’t until this fall, when she returned to the Saratoga Springs district after completing her sophomore year at Laurel Springs School, an online school. 

She had also begun playing tennis at age five, and said choosing between the two this fall was “a back and forth decision.” However, at the end of her time enrolled in Laurel Springs, Bonitatibus realized she would have enough credits to graduate early, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

The 16-year-old would currently be in her junior year, but instead will join the Class of 2024 at their graduation ceremony in June. She said this was a factor in her decision to pursue golf this fall.

“But I ultimately was like, ‘I’m going to be a senior, so I might as well just try it out,’” said Bonitatibus of her decision to join the golf team.

Bonitatibus said graduating early will allow her to “see more of the world,” noting she traveled often during her year enrolled in Laurel Springs School.

“I think what made me push skipping is the fact that I can see more of the world,” said Lira Bonitatibus. “(While in Laurel Springs School) I traveled a lot, and so I got to see different environments and how the people were there. It really just taught me a lot about the world.”

After deciding to try out for the golf team, Bonitatibus said that Saratoga head coach Karen Cavotta made a strong impression on her. However, entering the start of the season, Bonitatibus admitted she didn’t necessarily have high expectations for herself.

“I wasn’t expecting anything, honestly, because I didn’t play consistently,” she said. “I was just like, ‘I’m just going to go out and play.’”

In addition to her finish at sectionals, Bonitatibus recorded low nine-hole scores of 43 and 44, and also said one highlight of the fall was shooting an eagle on the first hole at McGregor Links in a practice round.

Now, Bonitatibus has hopes of golfing at the next level, saying she is hoping to join a Division II or III team in the South. Naturally, the process of applying to colleges is moving quickly for a student who will be graduating a year early.

“It’s going really fast. I’m trying to keep up in writing everything,” Bonitatibus said. “But I’m looking for colleges in the south, where it’s warmer. Like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas. I’d like to play DIII or DII golf.”

Bonitatibus credited her teammates for an enjoyable season, saying, “We’ve had some really fun moments out on the course.” She also credited Cavotta for “constantly” giving and receiving feedback, and assisting with her college search.

“She was going around the course constantly, getting feedback from us,” said Bonitatibus. “She wants to help us in our journeys after. She wants to know how she can help me post-graduation, for college and stuff, and where I want to play in the future. She’s really great.”

And thanks to her experience this fall, Bonitatibus says she has found a new passion.

“Golf, it just used to be a hobby,” Bonitatibus said. “I’d do it on weekends, play with my dad, and just be outside. But now, it’s a passion.”

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