Kyra Ly shot 67-69-69 to win the AJGA Junior event at Sunriver this past August. Photo courtesy of OGA
Kyra Ly shot 67-69-69 to win the AJGA Junior event at Sunriver this past August. Photo courtesy of OGA

[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than four months later, is about Cleveland High School. The goal will be to write two per week. While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]]

When she’s on the course, golfer Kyra Ly has a palpable presence. The 16-year-old junior at Cleveland HS is someone people notice.

Is it the booming, 300-yard drives that regularly split the fairway? The crisp iron play? The methodical way she stalks a birdie putt? The confidence she commands while striding from tee to green? The disarming smile that puts her playing partners at ease?

The answer is “Yes!” -- to all of it!

“Watching Kyra play you realize she is something special,” said Cleveland head coach Lauri Hausafus. “She is a serious competitor, yet she always looks like she is enjoying her time on the course with her opponents.”

Ly has come a long way since she first took up golf just five years ago. She discovered her love of the game at age 11 during a summer camp at the Sah-Hah-Lee 9-hole course in Clackamas; honed her skill under the tutelage of Ray Comella at the venerable, public Eastmoreland Golf Club; was beating her dad, Quyen, regularly by the time she was 13; and, over the past two years, has been named Oregon Junior Golf girls’ Player of the Year by the Oregon Golf Association.

“I see her having a very successful college career and playing on the LPGA tour,” Hausafus predicted. “She has everything it’s going to take. She loves the game, has the athletic ability, a great work ethic, and the support of her parents. She would be a great ambassador for the sport.”

Hausafus first saw Ly two years before she enrolled as a freshman in the Chinese immersion program at Cleveland. Hausafus had her Warrior golf team at Eastmoreland practicing and her players saw Ly pounding balls on the range. They were mesmerized by her pretty swing and how the ball exploded off of her club face. The players thought she was much older than they were. When they found out that she was only in middle school, all they could say was, “Wow!”

Ly made an immediate impact on Cleveland golf. She topped the PIL in scoring as a freshman, beat state champion Alexa Udom (Westview) that year to win Regionals in a neck-and-neck battle that came down to the 18th hole; and helped the Warriors qualify as a team for the state tournament, no small feat at a school where many players come out for the team having never before touched a golf club.

These days, Ly spends much of her time practicing and playing at the OGA course in Woodburn. Her father, Quyen, who often drives her, said that when they play together, he has no chance.

“At 16, she’s got her driver club speed over 100 mph; no way I can compete with that!” he said.

Few people can.

Hausafus thought that Ly, who finished 14th at the state tournament as a freshman, would have a great chance at contending for a state title last year, before the season was derailed by COVID-19. Ly has two more years to make her mark on high school golf, something Hausafus believes is a virtual certainty.

“I think she will be a serious contender this year,” she said. “Kyra’s game has few weaknesses. She will speak an improvement goal and work until the fruits of her labor are realized. That’s really cool!”

In the 50-year history of OSAA golf competitions, only golfers from Lincoln (2002; 2007-2008) and Grant (1975) have represented the PIL at the top of the leaderboard. Ly could add to that history and, at the same time, become that rare public links golfer to reach the pinnacle of high school achievement.

“It’s nice to see a kid at Cleveland doing such good things,” Hausafus said.