Staying the course: Now a senior at West Forsyth, Sidney’s passion for playing golf has transformed her life
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
CLEMMONS — For someone self-described as a person who used to have emotional outbreaks, it’s hard to believe that senior Paige Sidney of West Forsyth has used golf to harness that and become one of the best golfers in North Carolina.
“My friends used to call me Paige the Rage,” Sidney said. “I broke a club at a tournament one year. When I got really mad, I just didn’t want to talk to them. They would say something to me, and I would just kind of walk right past them.”
Sidney, who lives on the Reynolds Course at Tanglewood in Clemmons with her family, chalks her behavior up to being young.
“I was just disappointed,” she said. “It was always after I played. I was just disappointed, mad.”
She’s just an intelligent, giggly teenager. Sidney shot a 79 this past Monday, tying her for 10th place with Ella Reed of Reagan and Kiera Jordan of Durham Jordan at the NCHSAA Class 4-A Central Regional at Longleaf Golf & Family Club in Southern Pines.
That 79 was good enough to qualify her for next week’s NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship at Pinehurst No. 6 next Monday and Tuesday.
“Off the golf course, it’s like I’m a lot slower to get mad,” Sidney said. “So, it’s just kind of weird. It’s kind of like being two different people.”
After playing alongside Mary-Paige King at West Forsyth, King graduated this past June, catapulting Sidney into a leadership role.
“This year, being captain, it’s hard to balance like the Paige that wants to be friends with everybody and all that with the Paige who’s serious about her game and gets upset when she doesn’t do good.”
Debra Troxell, the first-year coach for the Titans, has seen that up close and personal with Sidney.
“She is serious about doing well,” Troxell said. “She understands what it takes to do well in the classroom and on the course, which means that you practice. You prioritize getting your schoolwork done just like you prioritize golf practice.”
Even knowing beforehand that she was going to take the leadership role for the Titans, it’s still been a difficult transition.
“The freshmen that came this year, like trying to help them and stuff while balancing everything else, it was stressful,” Sidney said. “It was just like I couldn’t decide whether it was smart to take out of my practice time. It was like balancing being the captain and being a good golfer. I didn’t know if I should take out of practice time to go help them or when to talk to them.”
Troxell has seen how the rest of the team gravitates toward Sidney.
“They’ve all been pretty tight all along,” Troxell said. “These are girls that have played golf together for years — in-season, out-of-season — as they were growing up. Paige is a natural leader on the team.”
That determination shows how far Sidney has progressed as a golfer, student, leader and person since childhood.
“I’ve been playing golf my whole life,” she said. “I was kind of bouncing around between sports in middle school. My dad asked me one day, ‘Do you just want to focus on school, or do you really want to get into one of these things?’
“And I kind of was just, ‘Oh, I’ll play golf.’ And I started getting lessons, and I just started playing in tournaments, and I got really competitive.”
Her love for golf started when she was just a child.
“It was just kind of something to do after school, get outside,” Sidney said.
It turns out that golf is an expensive hobby.
“We moved houses, and we moved onto the Reynolds Course at Tanglewood, and my dad was like, ‘Oh, it’d be cool if you played golf.’ But I was like 7. I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess so.’”
It turns out that the family moved to the Reynolds Course because of something outside of golf.
“I was living in like the Flat Rock area (of Forsyth County), and my sister went there, and my parents hated it,” Sidney said. “So, we came over here and it happened to be on the Reynolds Course.”
It turns out that Sidney’s parents knew what was best for her and the family.
“My parents say like it’s great, just like the area that we live in is nicer,” she said. “The education over here, my parents say, is a lot better.”
Like many people, Sidney has a diverse background. She has a half-sister named Giovanna Poggi, who is 25 and was born in Ecuador and lives here with her biological mother. She also has a younger biological sister named Kendall Sidney.
“(Golf) was like something to do, but I started playing through the First Tee program,” Sidney said. “And the coaches there, I mean, they were just so enthusiastic about my game. It just made me feel really good about it. So, then it became like, ‘Oh, this is something I really want to do.’ Like ‘They say I’m really good.’”
Even at a young age, Sidney knew she had some talent for golf, but positive reinforcement helped.
“Like I wanted to keep getting better, like show people I could really be good if I just kept doing what I was doing,” she said.
Although she played through middle school, she realized that she had some real talent for the game in her freshman season at West Forsyth.
“I thought I was terrible,” Sidney said. “See, my mental game when I first started playing was horrible. I left tournaments crying all the time. I just thought I was terrible. And then, as it got better, I thought that I was better.”
Something within her put up a wall for Sidney early on as a Titan.
“I didn’t talk to anybody the first year,” she said. “It was kind of like awkward. I played OK. I didn’t think I was going to play at all, but I played every match. And then I shot that same number that I was always shooting at regionals that year; didn’t go to states.”
After shooting an 85 at regionals her freshman season, Sidney knew she could do better.
“Sophomore year was amazing,” she said. “I think I just figured a lot out with my swing and keeping my temper when things go wrong on the golf course.”
Her sophomore season was so good that she and the rest of the team finished second at regionals and qualified for the state tournament. The team finished seventh overall in the NCHSAA Class 4-A state tournament in 2021.
In her words, she felt like she slacked off during that winter because she scored so well. However, that changed.
“I started going to the gym that year because Mary-Paige was hitting the ball a half a mile farther than I did,” Sidney said. “So, I started going to the gym like for physically getting better. Mentally, it just became a confidence thing like playing by myself and trying to keep it cool.”
Last year, West Forsyth finished sixth in the state in Class 4-A, King finished tied for 13th at 157 and Sidney finished 22nd at 163.
And now, Troxell knew she had some talent back with Sidney and Sadie Mecham, who finished tied for 65th last year in the state championship.
“(Sidney) still seems like the same person today,” Troxell said. “I don’t have her in the classroom. Last year, I knew Paige as a student. This year, I also know Paige as a captain. She has been a good captain. She has really grown into the role. But I saw that her last year, too.”
It’s never easy for a first-year coach, but Sidney thinks so highly of Troxell.
“It has been great,” Troxell said. “We have had a fabulous year. All of the girls are sweet. They’re hard-working. It has been a great season.”
Sidney shot a 79 on Monday at the Class 4-A Central Regional, Mecham was tied for 16th at 82, and Sally Toalson, also at West Forsyth, finished tied for 24th at 85.
No matter how those three golfers do next week, Sidney’s time as a Titan is ending. Unfortunately, as of now, Sidney isn’t being recruited.
“I plan on playing club in college,” she said. “I do (want to play in college). I mean, you can’t play this long and then totally throw it.”
Not being recruited has upset her.
“I stopped looking out for it once I made my plan to play club my first year and just walk on wherever I go,” Sidney said. “It’s hard giving it up so competitively like that because it’s been such a big part of my life for like five years.”
“I think a lot of recruiting for golf happens in the community leagues rather than at the high school,” Troxell said.
Although she has no firm plans, Sidney would like to attend N.C. State and major in either chemistry or math. But she has no idea what profession is on her horizon.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there,” she said.
But playing this sport has transformed her life.
“Being on the golf team has pushed me to be better than I was,” Sidney said. “Like competing against the other schools to see who else was out there. Like that really pushed you to work hard.”